On Friday, February 19, 2016, a major announcement was made from the cradle of the evolution of American flight. In an unassuming warehouse parked in the outskirts of the Mojave Desert, a stone’s throw away from Edwards Airforce Base and beneath the skies that once witnessed the first time a human being travelled faster than the speed of sound, Virgin Group Founder Richard Branson unveiled to the world the newly christened Virgin Galactic Spaceship bringing rank and file humanity one step closer to the stars. Aptly named VSS Unity by renowned Astro Physicist and former Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge Stephen Hawking, Virgin Galactic once again will begin the arduous task of multiple phases of testing and test-flights as a crew of several paid ticket holders await their journey as the first commercial Space Tourists to take flight.
Roughly one month ago, in anticipation of this climactic event, I had the fortunate opportunity to experience a visit and tour their amazing facility personally conducted by Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides. It is thrilling to know that our Golden State will be at the heart of the next chapter in America’s race to space, this time paving the way to allow for anyone one day to travel amongst the stars and gain a renewed appreciation for the fragile blue planet we call home. From a Board of Equalization perspective and of particular benefit to California, this means JOBS! Jobs are a wonderful thing and along with those jobs come revenue for the state and an improving economic climate. I am so proud of the rich heritage and attractive force California yields in maintaining its place in history and remaining at the center of some of humanity’s greatest achievements.
Of course, Virgin Founder Branson wasn’t alone for this unveiling. Accompanying him were special messages marking the occasion from none other than Stephen Hawking and well-known international Women’s Rights for Education Activist Malala Yousafzai, speaking to the importance of humanity’s future in space and the value of the education that it takes to get us there. Several friends and colleagues were out in force to mark the occasion, including former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Senate Minority Leader Jean Fuller, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, Congressman Steve Knight, and Assemblyman Tom Lackey. Additionally, among the audience in attendance was the occasionally fictional space travelling, swashbuckling scoundrel Harrison Ford to add an element of prestige and imagination to a great moment for California. Thank you for choosing the Golden State of California to do business (and make history). We are eternally grateful for your commitment to the future of our civilization and doing it all in our backyard.
The Virgin Galactic Spaceship housed in the company’s Mojave, California facility sits surrounded by viewers at the unveiling on February 19, 2016.
Galactic CEO George T. Whitesides, a former NASA Chief of Staff, provided BOE Vice Chair Harkey, Chairwoman Ma, and the members’ staff enjoy an out-of-this-world tour of their Mojave, California facility. They toured flight simulators and were able to see the launch plan VMS EVE in the background to understand Virgin Galactic’s space program. They were joined by Virgin Galactic’s tax team and representatives from KPMG, including partner Chris Craft and associates Gregory Pullman and Eric Gee. BOE Members were joined by their staff.