Next August, NBC viewers will be able to watch one eccentric billionaire launch himself and his children into the final frontier — provided everything goes according to plan.
Matt Lauer announced on Today this morning that NBC plans to broadcast Virgin Galactic’s very first passenger spaceflight live. As of now, the company is on track to send the world’s inaugural space tourists — Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson and his children, Holly and Sam — up through the atmosphere in August 2014, though Peacock Productions president Sharon Scott cautions that there’s a chance that goal may not be met. “They are hoping for August, but it’s completely engineering-driven,” Scott told NBC News before today’s big announcement. “There’s no guarantee for that. August is the desire.”
Branson, of course, betrayed no hint of uncertainty on Today, bearing only excitement and a big, wolfish grin: “[It's] eight years in the making,” he told Matt Lauer, sounding like a proud dad at his kid’s college graduation. “It’s going to be a beautiful baby when it’s finally finished.” Nearly 700 members of the one percent have already signed up to take Virgin spaceflights, he said — including both Leonardo DiCaprio and Stephen Hawking.
The August broadcast will culminate a host of Virgin Galactic coverage on NBC, which will also include programing on CNBC, MSNBC, SyFy, The Weather Channel, and an NBC reality competition called Space Race. (The prize: A trip to space. And no, there are no plans for a celebrity edition… yet.)