After purchasing his ticket to outer space in 2004, business mogul and real estate millionaire Ken Baxter will be boarding a rocket to see the stars in early September.
“I wanted to be the first civilian to go on a [private] rocket to outer space,” Mr. Baxter, a Las Vegas resident, told The Epoch Times.
In the early 2000s, Mr. Baxter decided to fulfill his childhood dream of space travel when he paid $200,000 to Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson for a ticket aboard his future rocket, before making his fortune from his multiple Las Vegas-based real estate development firms, namely Apollo Realty and Investments and PMA Realty.
At the time, he had to borrow money to pay for the fare.
“My wife was very angry at me for that. We didn’t yet have that kind of money,” he said.
At the time, Mr. Baxter was the very first civilian to pay for a space trip, after which a slew of high-profile celebrities—including Ashton Kutcher, Angelina Jolie, and Elon Musk, among others—began scrambling for a seat.
Mr. Baxter first heard about the space mission while watching an episode of “60 Minutes” in late 2004, during which the spaceflight company announced plans to make space travel accessible to the general public. Mr. Baxter quickly called Mr. Branson, the company’s founder, to secure the very first seat to go to space, a move that took 19 years to finally pay off.
“I’m pretty sure Richard Branson gave me the ticket because I gave him the right message. I told him right from the beginning that I wanted to be the first [civilian] to go to space, and I guess it worked,” Mr. Baxter said.
Having been told by Virgin Galactic that he would retain his first seat status following the purchase, Mr. Baxter’s excitement took a turn after he later found out that there would be a name drawing this year to determine who would ultimately be awarded the very first seat on the early September flight, which can carry three passengers.
Sure enough, his name was chosen for the drawing.
The saga then took another turn, however, when the airline announced on July 17 that three other passengers were selected to board that flight in place of Mr. Baxter’s group.
The passengers now going first are 80-year-old Jon Goodwin, an early Virgin Galactic ticket holder and Olympian, along with Keisha Schahaff and Anastatia Mayers, a mother and daughter duo who won their seats in a drawing that raised funds for Space for Humanity, a Colorado-based nonprofit aimed at promoting citizen flights to space.
Though disappointed by the twist and turns, Mr. Baxter said he’s been told that his flight will take off sometime in early September.
Mr. Baxter gained significant attention for his early purchase nearly two decades ago. The rocket enthusiast said multiple individuals offered to buy his seat for one million dollars. Each time, however, he declined.
“I don’t care what they offered. I wanted to be the first,” he said.
His fascination with space travel stemmed from early childhood. Since the age of eight, he began working odd jobs to buy Estes Rockets, a toy rocket that he would launch from his driveway.
“I thought [Estes Rockets] were the coolest thing. I’ve been fascinated with rocket launches from a very early age and have watched many launches,” Mr. Baxter, now 74, said.
Meanwhile, the current cost of a trip to space with Virgin Galactic has risen to $450,000, with a line of over 800 ticket holders anxiously awaiting their turn on the company’s New Mexico launchpad.
Virgin Galactic has announced that demand for its trips continues to skyrocket, and its stock has risen by 1.3 percent in premarket trades this week, MarketWatch reported.