Fly to space with digital dollars: Virgin Galactic now accepts Bitcoins

Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, announced Friday that trips to suborbital space aboard Virgin Galactic can now be paid for in Bitcoin, in a move that strongly resembled that one teen film where the popular quarterback takes that sort of weird girl to prom and then everyone finds out she’s secretly really awesome.

“There are a lot of people who got into Bitcoin quite early on who’ve made quite a bit of money and are also interested in going to space,” Branson told CNBC’s Squawk Box.

The first of these people? A flight attendant in Hawaii who already paid for her $250,000 Virgin Galactic flight in bitcoin.

“There’s not a lot of risks for us as a company, taking Bitcoin, and I think it’s fascinating to watch,” Branson continued. Upon receiving a payment in Bitcoin, Virgin converts the entire amount into dollars. That way, the company can still refund the customer’s money even if he or she decides not to go to space.

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Branson’s comments come after one of the most volatile periods in Bitcoin history. Earlier this week, a US Senate committee hearing affirmed Bitcoin as a legitimate service. While the Justice Department's Mythili Raman acknowledged the criminal uses of Bitcoin, she also stated, "These virtual currencies are not in and of themselves illegal."

Bitcoin's price fluctuated with characteristic capriciousness—it started the week valued in the $200 to $250 per Bitcoin range, ran up to an all-time high of $900, then crashed down to around $450 a day later before slowly creeping back north of $700. For a $250,000 spaceflight, that’s equivalent to 280 Bitcoin at the $900 price or 560 bitcoin at the $450 price—a huge swing in value.

“Obviously there are risks involved in new ventures like this…there’s been spikes and lows. But I think one day it will settle at a price that, I personally believe, is higher than the price it’s at today,” said Branson. “Virgin Galactic is a bold, entrepreneurial company; it’s driving a revolution. And Bitcoin is doing just the same when it comes to inventing a new currency.”

And hey—Virgin Galactic's embrace means fledgling Bitcoin billionaires can spend their digital hoard on something on the up-and-up, rather than cocaine and hitmen.

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