• Wed
  • Aug 20, 2014
  • Updated: 7:50pm
NewsChina Insider
SPACE TRAVEL

China's nouveau riche barred from buying Virgin Galactic's trips into space

PRC passport holders have been barred from Virgin Galactic's "space tourism" flights

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 January, 2014, 1:27pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 January, 2014, 1:38pm

Newly-rich Chinese tycoons from the mainland might be able to buy a lot with their money, but they won’t be able to buy a trip into space.

Chinese nationals have been barred from applying for spots on commercial space flights offered by Virgin Galactic, a “space tourism” company founded by British business magnate Richard Branson.

Virgin Galactic’s maiden space flight is currently accepting applications and is set to take place later this year. Several Chinese travelers are reportedly more than willing to pay the HK$ 2 million application fee, but all PRC passport holders will be denied due to United States anti-espionage regulations. Passengers with multiple passports or US residency may be considered.

According to various international media outlets including The Herald Sun, The International Business Times and The Daily Mail, Virgin Galactic’s space crafts – known as SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo – both contain rocket engines that are considered military-grade machinery under the United States’ International Traffic in Arms Regulations, a series of guidelines instituted during the Cold War to prevent US technology from falling into the hands of foreign powers such as China.

“Both SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo are US technology and are therefore subject to US regulations,” said Winnie Chan, a spokesperson for Miramar Travel, Virgin Galactic’s accredited partner organisation in Hong Kong and other parts of Asia. “[Thus], currently [PRC] passport holders are not permitted.

“If Chinese passport holders have a US Green Card, then Virgin Galactic accepts their application. We [also] have passengers [who have] successfully applied with Hong Kong SAR passports.”

Currently, Virgin Galactic has no concrete plans to collaborate with Chinese technology companies to find a way around these restrictions, although changes may be enacted in the future.

“It’s not the perfect time to promote and sell Virgin Galactic in [the mainland] at the moment,” Chan said. “[But] we have been in touch with some prospects in China, keeping them informed of updated developments on space travel… We have confidence that we will have a breatkthrough in regards to the citizenship issue after we successfully launch our first commercial spaceline.”

Virgin Galactic was founded by Richard Branson in 2004 and has already garnered nearly HK$540 million in application deposits. Passengers on Virgin Galactic flights will be piloted on trips 110 kilometres into the atmosphere and will experience a short six-minute period of weightlessness before coming back to earth.

Despite substantial media attention for its pioneering plans to launch suborbital space flights for tourists, Virgin Galactic has been criticised for charging expensive rates for a relatively short period of time in zero gravity. The company's maiden space voyage has been delayed continuously since 2007.

Share

More on this story

For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive
 
 

 

13

This article is now closed to comments

jmscscmp
It is my belief that this was done to stem the tide of mainlanders who would be signing up in droves to participate in something like this. European countries and trips abroad to America and Australia are no longer enough - the final frontier of space is the next destination for the rich Chinese tourist dressed in gaudy clothes with multiple trolleys filled with baby powder!
mankydanky
Sell them one way tickets.
marcoyam1022
I think its very bad for the company not letting Chinese people to travel to space.
Beaker
Maybe it was harmoniously decided with US State Dept and China Ministry for Corruption to announce this, to not cause dis-harmony on the Mainland as poor Chinese people watch their stolen state funds burn up at a rate of however many tonnes a minute to put the cadre into space for a look. Could make for some acerbic posts on Weibo which can get traction and go viral. But, then the poster would be detained and it spirals down from there.
lexishk
You're welcome to fly on the Chinese copy of this spacecraft. I sure as hell won't. Been keeping up with The Adventures of Jade Rabbit?
mushi
Chinese people can travel though, its only if they only have a PRC passport that they will be barred on a technicality because the planes and spaceships are using US tech. i imagine that once the space travel program expands and actually gets off the ground they will be unable to ignore the Chinese market and will probably negotiate with a mainland company to use Chinese spaceships or plans, which would negate the problem entirely.
lwbing
This is such a brilliant idea - assuming that Chinese spies all hold PRC passports! Do these American intelligence morons even read a spy novel?
KaiEr
The laws do not bar Chinese nationals from this type of thing - it never has. This is the same knee-jerk, uninformed reaction that NASA had a month or so ago.
The law in no way/shape/form restricts civilian/individuals from this, as long as they are not working as agents of the State government, or tech corporations.
Come on. It's not RACIST, it's logic.
pliu
Shame on you Richard Branson! These are the actions of a racist company aligned to a racist country. I think all Chinese people (whether PRC or not) should boycott Virgin Airlines in the future!
Anyway, I don't think much of the service that you provide in addition to the skills of your pilots.
I recently visited both Sydney and Queenstown using Cathay Pacific and Virgin Airlines respectively. Check-in with Cathay at HK International Airport was very quick and smooth and the landing at Sydney Airport was even smoother (ultra-smooth!). I can say the same for the return flight to Hong Kong. With Virgin, however, I had to wait about 1.5 hours to check-in for my flight from Sydney to Queenstown, New Zealand. We had quite a hard landing at Queenstown Airport and the return flight to Sydney was no better! Again we had a hard and wobbly landing at Sydney Airport.
On reclaiming our luggage at Sydney Airport, I noticed the handle had broken off. And I can tell you why?!!! The people off-loading the luggage from the Virgin plane literally threw the bags onto the luggage cart. I saw it with my own eyes from the inside window of the plane. When I went to complain with Virgin, they said it's not their responsibility and I should take up the matter with the insurance company. What a lousy service that Virgin provides!
limpanlinus@gmail.com
in What way is this racist? They are not stopping chinese people from going are they? They stop people with an prc passport to go becouse they think it is an Security isue. also for ur info all luggage handling crew is more or less throwing the luggage into the carts then if it is virgin or cathay or BA it is The same . i flew with China airways and my luggage more or less came back in pices .

Pages

 
 
 
 
 

Login

SCMP.com Account

or