Sir Richard Branson made the morning news show rounds this morning, stammering through a couple of interviews about Friday’s crash of a Virgin Galactic test flight that took the life of a 39-year-old pilot. Since the project was announced, it has been positioned as the future of space travel, with the wealthy and the famous such as Angelina Jolie and Leonardo DiCaprio ponying up $250,000 for a ticket. Part science fiction, part modern-day technological innovation, Virgin Galactic made it seem like space travel for the average person wasn’t too far behind.
Images of the wreckage pushed all of those ideas back into the realm of fantasy. So Sir Branson’s appearances and comments in the days after have sought to both reassure the public that commercial space travel will be safe when it’s available and convince everyone to dream, once again, about rocketing beyond the clouds.
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Any adult who hasn’t had their inner child beaten out of them by life would jump at the chance to go to space. Who hasn’t dreamed of walking out of your kitchen only to pause and tell your spouse and kids, “Hey, I’ll be home a little late this evening. My spacecraft doesn’t land until 6:45.”
Today, Virgin Galactic took a major step forward with the successful test run of its SpaceShip 2 spacecraft, which reached an altitude of 56,000 feet and broke the sound barrier. Though SpaceShip 2 did not enter space, it did effectively demonstrate that its rocket and critical systems were ready for the next step. In fact, Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson said the brand plans on full space flight by the end of 2013—yes, this year. Cool.
As a child you probably thought we’d all be commuting to work in flying cars by now, but that’s what happens when you’re raised on The Jetsons and Star Wars. Reality, of course, is much different. Today, it doesn’t matter when you were born as much as how much money you have. And for a mere $200,000 you too can soon experience the miracle of space flight and even several minutes of weightlessness.
What does any of this have to do with public relations? Plenty. People want to be inspired. Deep within everyone’s DNA is the spirit of human adventure—that same cryptic drive that took mankind across tumultuous seas and frigid mountaintops just to see what lied beyond them.
We went island to island, continent to continent, and space is the logical next step. It comforts and excites the public to know that we’re not done. That we’ll keep pushing forward. Brands that can capture this dream will resonate with the public. So kudos to Virgin Galactic. You get us, and by us we don’t mean simply the people with a spare $200,000, but all of us.
Sure, there are aspirational brands out there that promise a life of exquisite luxury and decadent indulgences, but those promises only work for a certain demographic. Even the wealthiest and most perfectly tanned financiers who have just returned from St. Barts can’t compete with the pale geek who just returned from outer space. That’s just how the universe works.