On a blindingly bright January afternoon in 2010, I went to my bank to get a cashier’s check for $20,000. It was my birthday, and I was buying myself the present I’d been waiting for my entire life: a trip to space.
This fat chunk of cash would become a 10 percent downpayment for a ticket aboard Virgin Galactic, billionaire Richard Branson’s bold plan to hurl ordinary humans into space. To do this, Branson plans to use rocket planes that can carry space tourists 62 miles up and travel at three times the speed of sound. Ninety days before my trip, I’d need to pay the remaining $180,000. That’s $200,000 for a five-minute sojourn beyond Earth’s stratosphere.
Walking out of the bank, I tried not to think about the financial side of things—how I would need to decimate my savings account and my 401k to afford those few glorious minutes. It would be worth it, I reminded myself. That stomach-curdling arc would be the fulfillment of a dream I’ve carried with me since I was a boy watching Neil Armstrong take humanity’s first step on another world.
It’s been almost seven years since I bought my ticket—No. 610. But I’m not just idly waiting for my space ride. I’m preparing.