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Image: Shatner
Gene Blevins  /  Reuters file
William Shatner, shown here at a tribute to fellow "Star Trek" actor James Doohan, played Captain James T. Kirk in the initial "Star Trek" programs on TV and in film. Now Shatner wants to take a real-life ride on a suborbital spaceship.
updated 10/22/2004 9:33:15 PM ET 2004-10-23T01:33:15

“Star Trek” star William Shatner and former Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist Dave Navarro are among thousands who want to fly on Virgin’s proposed commercial spaceflights, company chief Richard Branson said Friday.

Branson said more than 7,000 people had registered their willingness to pay the $210,000 fare for the service, which promises to send passengers 69 miles (110 kilometers) above the Earth.

Branson told Britain’s Press Association news agency there had been “tremendous take-up” of the idea since he announced it last month.

“We are extremely pleased because it just means in a sense that the gamble we took seems to have paid off,” he said, speaking to the agency from California’s Mojave Desert.

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Branson, 54, said he had committed $110 million toward spaceships and ground infrastructure for the new service, Virgin Galactic. He also plans to spend up to $26 million to license the technology of SpaceShipOne, the rocket plane that made two successful suborbital space flights earlier this month to capture the $10 million Ansari X Prize.

Virgin hoped to offer flights — lasting about 3½ hours, including six minutes of weightlessness — by 2008.

Branson said he would go on the first flight, along with family members including his father, now 86. “My dad has put his hand up and will be 90 at the time, my kids definitely want to come and if there is room for my mum she will come as well,” Branson told PA.

But he said his wife Joan “will have her feet firmly on the ground, I suspect, trying to encourage the kids to stay on the ground.”

SpaceShipOne designer Burt Rutan, who is beginning work on Virgin's space fleet, has promised to ride along with Branson on the first flight.

Branson is one of Britain’s best-known and most colorful entrepreneurs. His Virgin Group began as a record label, and now sells everything from soft drinks to bridal gowns, and even runs a train service and mobile phone network.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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