Okay, Richard Branson is Cool Wired Magazine's NextFest is kicking off in New York with lots of techno goodness -- from a robotic bartender, something I completely approve of, to the interior of SpaceShipTwo, which I approve of even more. Richard Branson is funding the project. It'll take tourists into space for $250,000 a pop. And -- even better -- instead of being made by design-challenged NASA, it's being made by Burt Rutan. He's the guy who in 2004 won the $10 million Ansari X-Prize for twice in one week successfully launching a piloted, suborbital spacecraft. And he makes a sweet-looking rocket ship -- the kind of rocket ship we all knew could be made if only someone cool were making them. Take a look.
NPR logo Okay, Richard Branson is Cool

Okay, Richard Branson is Cool

Richard Branson gives a thumbs up from a seat during the unveiling of a scale model of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo. Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images

Richard Branson gives a thumbs up from a seat during the unveiling of a scale model of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo.

Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images

Wired Magazine's NextFest is kicking off in New York with lots of techno goodness -- from a robotic bartender, something I completely approve of, to the interior of SpaceShipTwo, which I approve of even more. Richard Branson is funding the project. It'll take tourists into space for $250,000 a pop. And -- even better -- instead of being made by design-challenged NASA, it's being made by Burt Rutan. He's the guy who in 2004 won the $10 million Ansari X-Prize for twice in one week successfully launching a piloted, suborbital spacecraft.

And he makes a sweet-looking rocket ship -- the kind of rocket ship we all knew could be made if only someone cool were making them. Take a look.

SpaceShipTwo is supposed to start flying from Spaceport America in New Mexico in 2009. Another private launch from there failed earlier this week, but hey, stuff happens.

Also, Branson says he's giving $3 billion to combat global warming. He talked to All Things Considered about it last week.

And his influence isn't just in the sky. When leaving Baghdad a couple of weeks ago, I wandered into the duty free shop at Baghdad International Airport. It was chock full of Virgin Atlantic tchotchkes.

(Thanks to BoingBoing and Gizmodo)