Kutcher to be 500th space tourist

Croydon Guardian: Ashton Kutcher will be the 500th customer to go into space with Virgin Galactic (AP) Ashton Kutcher will be the 500th customer to go into space with Virgin Galactic (AP)

Sir Richard Branson has said his venture to launch paying tourists into space has netted its 500th customer - US actor Ashton Kutcher.

The British billionaire made the announcement on his blog, saying he gave the actor a quick call to congratulate him.

"He is as thrilled as we are at the prospect of being among the first to cross the final frontier (and back!) with us and to experience the magic of space for himself," Branson wrote.

Ashton is among dozens of Hollywood names, international entrepreneurs, scientists, space buffs and others who have made deposits to be among the first to reach the edge of the Earth on Branson's Virgin Galactic spaceline.

Branson has said the aim is to one day make travelling to space safe and affordable for the masses, not just those who can afford the current 200,000 US dollar (£126,000) ticket price.

Virgin Galactic is in the final stages of its test flight programme. The company plans to begin commercial operations next year.

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