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Virgin Galactic VMS Mothership "Eve," a civilian carrier plane that will be used to launch the SpaceShipTwo spacecraft, debuts at the Experimental Aircraft Association's 2009 AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisc. -- July 28, 2009 - 


Steve Chiotakis: Whether space tourism gets off the ground is a matter of cosmic know-how and capital, and that last part is getting a boost from oil-rich Abu Dabi. The Gulf state is buying a stake in British entrepreneur Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic. Our man in London, Stephen Beard, has the story.

Stephen Beard: Abu Dhabi is buying 32 percent of Virgin Galactic. The cost: $280 million. The emirate will gain the exclusive right in the Gulf region to host Galactic flights into space.

This doesn't look like a sure-fire investment, however. The company has yet to announce a launch date and NASA has poo-pooed the whole venture. .

Three-hundred people have applied for a ticket at $200,000 a piece and they've paid deposits. But David Wade, a space flight insurer at Lloyds of London, wonders how many others will follow:

David Wade: Two-hundred-thousand dollars is a lot to find. And it's easy to answer a survey saying that yes, they would pay that kind of money for a once in a lifetime opportunity. But how many people are really going to find that kind of money when it comes to putting their cash on the line?

Nevertheless, Virgin Galactic is powering ahead. This week the company unveiled its so-called mothership at an air show in Wisconsin.

In London, this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.