A NEW FRONTIER: History will be made.
Now Scottish pilot David Mackay is preparing to make his own aviation history, when he captains the first commercial flight into space.
The 55-year-old, who grew up in Sutherland, is the chief pilot of Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic organisation which hopes to take paying customers into space by the end of 2013.
Mr Mackay lives in Bear Valley, near Tehachapi in California, with his wife Sue and his two children, 12-year-old Katharine and 17-year-old Duncan.
The space trip, which will take about two hours, costs $200,000 (£130,000) a ticket and will take passengers on a sub-orbital flight of the earth. The flights will take off from a specially-designed facility in New Mexico and already more than 500 space tourists have signed up for the journey, including Hollywood actor Ashton Kutcher.
Yesterday it was announced Scottish space tourists would be able to buy their Virgin Galactic tickets from Edinburgh-based travel agent Dream Escape.
So far only a handful of private individuals have gone into space. They each had to go through six months' training with the Russian Government's space programme at a cost of around $20 million (£12.8m) each.
Mr Mackay, who joined Virgin Galactic in 2005 and was appointed chief pilot of the passenger craft SpaceShipTwo in 2011, said these commercial space flights will be "a dynamic, unusual experience".
He said: "We go up just into space – space is most commonly accepted to be 100 kilometres above the earth's surface and we go up just beyond that to about 350,000ft. They'll see the views of earth from space – they'll see the brightly lit surface of the planet and the black sky of space and they'll be able to see the brighter stars and planets. It'll be an amazing adventure."
Mr Mackay, who started his career in the RAF in 1979, admits he has wanted to go into space since he was a young boy. He added: "From a very early age I wanted to fly aeroplanes. I was brought up in an area of Scotland where I saw fast jets flying over my village. Then in the 1960s this great American-Russian space race took off and that was really exciting stuff.
"I've always hankered after going into space and walking on the moon and Mars. I did want to be an astronaut and had there been a manned space flight programme in the UK, I would have been knocking on the door."
Mr Mackay said he had all but given up on his dreams to go into space when an opportunity came up at Virgin Galactic. From 1995 he had been flying Virgin Atlantic commercial flights, when he was given the opportunity to fly the simulator of one of the first designed spacecrafts.
He said: "They wanted a pilot and they knew of me and they asked if I wanted to join as a test pilot. I was in the right place at the right time."
Mr Mackay said he has never been afraid of the prospect of taking the first commercial flight into space. "In any aircraft you fly you always think about what can go wrong and you plan for it in advance. You always have back-up plans.
"You should never have a fear of it but you should always have a healthy respect for it."
Despite his own enthusiasm, his family is unlikely to follow him into space immediately. He added: "My children would like to but my wife I don't think would – she's not the most confident flyer. My son would love to go – he loves anything to do with aircraft and space – and my daughter is a dynamic little girl and I think she'd love to go, but at the moment 18 is the age limit so they're not able to."
Contextual targeting label: