Doncastronaut Craig books ticket into space

THEY call him The Doncas-tronaut!

That is the name pals have given Craig Burkinshaw after he set himself up to become one of the first space tourists in history by buying a $200,000 ticket for a flight on Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo.

And today he says he cannot wait to boldly go where no holiday has been taken before, with his ticket costing the equivalent of 100,640.

The 37-year-old managing director of tour operator Audley Travel, a former pupil of Ridgewood School, in Scawsby, Doncaster, is expecting his journey beyond the earth's atmosphere to be inside the next three years - and he can't wait.

He will be following in the foosteps of Sheffield woman Helen Sharman, of Greenhill, who became the first Briton in space when she spent eight days at the Mir space station conducting scientific experiments in May 1991.

What do you think? Would you pay 100,000 for a trip on a spaceship? Post your comments below.

Craig has been interested in space since he was a child - his mum and dad even bought him a telescope when he was a youngster.

He booked his ticket to space in New York last weekend at the launch event, and now he's counting down the months to lift off.

The spacecraft will be first taken up by a special carrier aircraft before being released for its rocket motors to power it out of the earth's atmosphere and gravity, 68 miles above sea level.

For Craig, now living in Oxford, space travel is something he has always dreamed of but never thought he would ever do.

He said: "It's something I've always been fascinated by, but I never thought there would be a chance in my life. When I heard that this could happen two years ago I registered myself as interested, and I've been talking to Virgin Galactic's sales people ever since.

"It's a hell of a lot of money, but it is something I've always wanted to do. I think it will be an experience of a lifetime and worth every penny.

"I love science. I did physics at A-level and I've been to astrophysics lectures. And I've also done a lot skydiving, and the space trip really appeals to that side of me. I first tried parachuting at the old Doncaster airport site, near where the Bawtry Road Asda is now, when I was 18."

His long-term girlfriend has already given him her approval for the trip and has been supportive of him - although his mum Mary has admitted she will be worrying about him.

But neither can complain they did not know Craig was interested in adventure - his thrill-seeking has on occasions left him fearing for his life.

He lost consciousness for several seconds while skydiving in Spain three years ago after a heavy night out when he had little sleep.

Two years before that he had feared he was going to drown when he was swept seven miles by underwater currents while diving off the coast of South Africa.

Craig has already taken his first steps into the weightless world he will experience on SpaceShipTwo.

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Latest sport. While he was in America for the launch, he took the chance to go on a ‘parabolic’ flight, where the pilot dives to give the effect of weightlessness in the aircraft.

But flying is nothing new to Craig - as a travel company boss he has visited more than 30 countries and flies long haul five or six times a year.

SpaceShipTwo passengers will have views of 1,000 miles in every direction and be able to look down on the earth.

They will also be able to experience weightlessness for about five minutes during the two-and-a-half hour trip.

Each flight will carry six passengers and two pilots in an aeroplane-style environment.