It’s rare for such announcements to get our attention, but Land Rover’s revelation that it had become the first global partner for Virgin Galactic was worthy of further investigation. After all, just how can an SUV maker lend expertise to a firm looking to commercialise space travel for the first time?
Officially the deal, announced by Jaguar Land Rover marketing chief Phil Popham and Virgin Galactic visionary Richard Branson and CEO George Whitesides alongside the unveiling of the Discovery Vision Concept in New York, is designed to “inspire young people across the globe to pursue careers in engineering, science and technology”.
Land Rover could tell Virgin Galactic a few stories on adventures and creating go-anywhere (on land, anyway) vehicles, but this is not a partnership based on tangible technology exchanges. It’s one all about inspiring future engineers, the kudos of being associated with one another, and for me it was an excuse to find out just what Virgin Galactic is trying to achieve.
Enter pilot Mike ‘Sooch’ Masucci, one of the pilots set to imminently undertake test flights of the Virgin Galactic 'SpaceShipTwo' spacecraft ahead of taking the first customers – the first of which being Branson himself – in the coming months.