Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Help Wanted at Virgin Galactic — Prior Spaceflight Experience Desired

Help Wanted at Virgin Galactic — Prior Spaceflight Experience Desired: "

Virgin Galactic is hiring. That’s good news for people looking for work. The bad news is the company’s latest job description is quite specific and rather limiting.

Today is the 50th anniversary of the first manned spaceflight. A 27-year-old pilot named Yuri Gagarin lifted off from the then–Soviet Union aboard Vostok 1 on April 12, 1961. After 1 hour and 48 minutes, and a single orbit of the Earth, he parachuted safely back to the ground.

Half-a-century later, the first want ad has been posted by a private company looking for people to follow in Gagarin’s footsteps. Sir Richard Branson’s space tourism company, Virgin Galactic, is seeking pilot-astronauts to fly SpaceShipTwo for commercial operations it hopes to begin sometime next year.

The list of qualifications from the company isn’t long:

A full course graduate of a recognised test pilot school and highly and broadly experienced. Virgin is looking for pilots with significant experience of both high performance fast-jet type airplanes as well as large multi-engine types — not only that but “prior spaceflight experience is an advantage.”

The company is only looking for three qualified pilots right now. And with dozens of pilots graduating each year from the military’s test-pilot schools in this country alone, that part of the search may not be so hard.

For nonmilitary pilots, just down the road from where the spacecraft are being built for Virgin Galactic in Mojave, California, the National Test Pilot School offers a course for civilians wanting to learn the trade. The current $891,000 tuition is a bit steep, though.

The spaceflight experience however, will definitely whittle down the pool of applicants. On the bright side, there are some soon-to-be out-of-work space shuttle astronauts who can legitimately send in a application without having to pad their resume. We’re guessing half-anhour in the simulator won’t cut it.

If you have graduated from test-pilot school, have a lot of high-performance jet time and plenty of orbits in your logbook, Virgin Galactic would like you to apply.

Photo: Virgin Galactic


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