Frequent flier miles are typically only good for a trip to, say, see a great aunt who lives across the country. But now Virgin Airlines is upping the ante and offering its most frequent flier a trip to space.
British billionaire Richard Branson and his space tourism company, Virgin Galactic, have been planning flights to space since 2004, according to U.S. News & World Report. More than 520 people, including Ashton Kutcher, have given deposits for the $200,000 trip aboard SpaceShipTwo since 2005, U.S. News reports. However, Virgin still has not flown any tourists to space, even though the vehicle was successfully tested.
Branson said that his Galactic spaceship will be ready to take fare-paying customers into space by December 2013, according to CNN. He said that his two children will accompany him on the SpaceShipTwo's first voyage, a two-hour trip in sub-orbital space.
"The initial flights will be sub-orbital, which will give people a taste of space," he said, according to CNN. "From there we'll go into orbital flights and maybe one day hotels in space."
But Virgin Galactic is ready to offer its most frequent flier on the trip beyond Earth's atmosphere.
Virgin Airlines' "Mission: Galatic" allows fliers of Virgin America, Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia to collect frequent flier miles through Aug. 7, 2013, to win a suborbital space flight. Fliers will earn status points for every flight purchased on all three Virgin airlines.
Although the grand prize is a trip to space, the second-place winner will not go home empty handed. The member who comes in second will get to go on a zero-gravity flight, courtesy of ZERO-G.
Space tourism is no novel idea. In fact, talk of a space tourism industry has been spreading for the past few years, and the prospect of commercial spaceflight could mean a new $1.6 billion industry, Florida Today reported earlier this month.
According to Carissa Bryce Christensen of the Tauri Group, more than 900 reservations have been made for suborbital trips, Florida Today reports. The trip boasts the same $200,000 going-rate. Some customers have paid the full price in advance, while others put down a $20,000 deposit.
Also on HuffPost:
This image taken by the Mast Camera on NASA's Curiosity rover highlights the geology of Mount Sharp, a mountain inside Gale Crater, where the rover landed.
Base Of Mount Sharp
South/Southwest Of Landing Site
This photo is from a test series of the 100-millimeter Mast Camera on NASA's Curiosity rover. It is looking south-southwest of the landing site and taken on Aug. 23, 2012.
More From Mast Cam
Another test photo from the Mast Camera on NASA's Curiosity Rover. Again, it's looking south-southwest on Aug. 23, 2012. The gravelly area of the landing site is visible in the foreground.
The landing site is visibile here in this portion of a 360-degree color panorama along the heights of Mount Sharp.
Big Wheels Rolling
This photo was taken by a front Hazard-Avoidance camera on NASA's Curiosity and shows track marks from the rover's first Martian drives.
Curiosity's Second Drive
Track marks are seen here after the NASA Curiosity rover completes a successful drive to an area of bedrock.
The donut-shaped tracks shown here make an infinity symbol, following the first two drives from NASA's curiosity rover. The drives took place on Aug. 22 and Aug. 27, respectively.
Heights Of Mount Sharp
The highest point of Mount Sharp visible from NASA's Curiosity rover is seen here in a high-resolution image taken on Aug. 18.
Traces Of The Landing
This mosaic image was created from images taken by the rover's Navigation cameras on Aug. 7 Pacific Time / Aug. 8 Eastern Time.
Curiosity's Extended Arm
This photo taken on Aug. 20 shows the many tools on Curiosity's extended arm.
NASA's Curiosity rover tests its wheels at its landing site on Aug. 21. Photo taken by the rover's Navigation cameras.
NASA's Curiosity rover fired its laser 50 times against these rocks at a mark called "Goulburn."
Rover Takes First 'Steps'
This overhead view shows NASA's Curiosity rover after its first successful test drive on Aug. 22, 2012.
Another Look At Rover's First Steps
Here's another view of the first track marks Rover left in the Martian surface on Aug. 22, 2012.