02:42 - Source: virgin galactic
Ride aboard Virgin Galactic spacecraft

Story highlights

Space companies hope to launch regular commercial flights over next 30 years

Virgin Galactic plans to double number of people who have been into space since 1961

Virgin faces competition from other commercial enterprises including Blue Origin and SpaceX

Delegates at UK conference also heard about plan to send new probe to Jovian system

CNN —  

Imagine the delight at unwrapping your Christmas present in 2043 and discovering you’ve been gifted a trip around the Moon.

It may seem a little far-fetched right now but it could become a reality if space companies like Virgin Galactic realize their aspirations over the next 30 years or so.

Richard Branson and his children are due to fly in his company’s spaceship on its first commercial flight currently slated for 2014. But speaking to CNN outside a space conference in the UK last week, the company’s CEO George Whitesides said their ambitions extended beyond sub-orbital flights for those first customers.

“If we can make significant progress on the challenge of reusable space access then I think that opens up all kinds of opportunities in the future,” he said.

“One of the directions that might open up is high-speed point-to-point travel on Earth – so that you could go from London to Singapore in an hour or go from London to Los Angeles in a couple of hours.

“We may be able to open up the opportunity for habitats in low Earth orbit, we could make it more affordable to do longer term flights – even trips around th