UPDATE: Aylsham businessman counting down to historic ‘space tourist’ flight

A Norfolk businessman could be less than a year from becoming one of Britain's first 'space tourists'.

Richard Burr is counting down to lift-off after Richard Branson announced the first public flights on his ground-breaking Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo could begin in 2013.

Aylsham resident Mr Burr paid a �12,000 deposit for the �114,000 trip in 2006 and has been waiting ever since to fulfil his childhood dream.

Yesterday, business tycoon Mr Branson said the first passenger flight could take place in 2013, subject to the completion of final tests.

The announcement was made at Farnborough, where the spaceship will be on display during the international airshow this weekend.

The news follows a flurry of recent test activity and confirmation that all major components of SpaceShipTwo's rocket system have been qualified for powered flight, on track to begin before the year's end.

Mr Burr said: 'It was six years ago I decided to buy a ticket with Virgin Galactic because it is a childhood dream. It must be the same for millions of other young boys growing up who have dreams of going into space.

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'It was impossible many years ago but it is now coming into the world of reality where people such as myself and others can buy a ticket into space.

'The flight is two-and-a-half hours from take-off to touch down and the journey into space is quite brief but is still nevertheless space.'

Mr Burr's wife Maureen said she had some concerns about her husband's upcoming space flight. 'The main thing was I was very frightened,' she said. 'I didn't want him to do it but a man's got to do what a man's got to do and eventually he won me round and bought a ticket.'

Mr Burr has secured place 205 on Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo; capable of transporting two pilots and six passengers in sub-orbital travel.

He is one of 529 future astronauts, including movie star Ashton Kutcher, to have signed up for the sub-orbital flight - a number greater than the total count of people who have been to space throughout human history.

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