Seven Chinese apply to be space tourists

Beijing - Seven Chinese have applied to become space tourists on a planned commercial flight in the United States in 2009, state media reported Friday.

Six men and one woman have put their names forward in the hope of becoming the first two Chinese tourists to travel to space in "SpaceShipTwo," run by British billionaire Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic company, said the Beijing Morning Post.

According to the company's website, work on the spacecraft design and construction is "well advanced", with commercial flights on the maiden Virgin Galactic craft commencing early in 2009.

Branson's Virgin Galactic has already begun taking reservations for seats aboard "SpaceShipTwo," a six-seater reusable spacecraft developed by American engineer Burt Rutan.

The flights are expected to launch from a remote region of New Mexico in the United States, with tourists paying around $200 000 to be rocketed into space to experience weightlessness before returning to earth.

A New Mexico Spaceport Authority official said there would be two or three missions a day, five days a week, and around 700 to 800 flights a year.

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