Free Enterprise Staff  | April 22, 2015

Exclusive Q&A With Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides

UPDATE: Virgin Galactic CEO George T. Whitesides said this week that the company has plans to test a new spaceship at some point this year, according to the Financial Times.

There are two types of people on Earth: Those who like it just fine here, and those who dream of leaving the planet behind and blasting off into space. George T. Whitesides, the chief executive officer of Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, is firmly in the latter category.

Whitesides said as much during an interview with Free Enterprise held last month at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Aviation Summit. Formerly the Chief of Staff for NASA, Whitesides arrived at Virgin Galactic in 2010 amid a renewed wave of excitement about space travel.

Yet Whitesides has never had to reignite an interest in space travel. His love of space has always defined his worldview, fueled his imagination, and driven his academic and professional aspirations. As he explains in the following clip, it also prompted his decision to become a customer of Virgin Galactic—even before he was leading the space company.

Since launching, Virgin Galactic has worked toward the singular mission of commercializing space travel, an elusive goal that has long captivated space observers. Like SpaceX, Virgin Galactic has helped usher in a new era of privately funded space exploration, one that advocates believe could help drive substantial technological breakthroughs with innumerable practical applications. In the following clip, Whitesides describes how Virgin Galactic has already contributed to this wave of research.

Apart from its impact on research and science, there are other benefits to space travel, Whitesides explains.

While Virgin Galactic has yet to launch its inaugural commercial space flight, the company has already attracted the interest of a number of notable people willing to pay the trip’s $250,000 price tag. Though undoubtedly expensive, that price actually represents a significant breakthrough in the world of space travel, Whitesides argues in the following clip.

Even for a groundbreaking company, Virgin Galactic is particularly ambitious. While it has attracted a lot of attention for being at the forefront of the fledgling commercial space flight sector, Virgin Galactic is also working to pioneer a new kind of orbital launch vehicle, one that could also have major implications back on Earth for all kinds of businesses and government agencies alike. See what Whitesides thinks is the most exciting advancement in this industry, and hear him describe that innovative system and its potential effects.

Interested in working for Virgin Galactic? It might be tough for you to get a job there. As Whitesides explains in the following clips, the company has assembled a team of some of the most accomplished and knowledgeable aeronautical experts on the planet. It has also had to turn away scores of qualified candidates—including flight attendants, who have applied in droves.

That isn’t to say, of course, that the company isn’t hiring. Galactic is actively looking for qualified workers to help develop their spaceships for human spaceflight out of Mojave, and also the satellite launcher they’re developing in their new Long Beach facility in California.

Even if you strip away all of Virgin Galactic’s technological and scientific ambitions, the company has an almost philosophical outlook on space and space exploration. What lies beyond our own planet is one of the most fundamental questions of human existence, and Whitesides and his ever-growing team at Virgin Galactic are squarely focused on advancing our understanding of the mysteries of space.