x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Winner of British talent contest may rocket to more than fame

Branson's company, which is part-owned by an Abu Dhabi investment firm, has offered to fly the winner into space.

DUBAI // Previous winners of Britain's Got Talent may have been over the moon - but the next champion of the popular British television show could really get to perform in outer space.

Discussions are still in early stages with Virgin Galactic, which is one-third owned by Abu Dhabi's Aabar Investments.

The company is planning to offer the first commercial space flights next year.

A representative for the show yesterday confirmed that discussions were continuing.

Simon Cowell, who with Sony Music Entertainment owns the "Got Talent" television franchise, said last month that the idea had come up in a conversation with Sir Richard Branson, the head of the Virgin Group and owner of the first "spaceline".

"It came up in a conversation: 'would you want the winner to go into space', and I said yes," he said in a video posted by The Showbiz 411, part of ITN Productions.

Aabar Investments took a 32 per cent stake in Virgin Galactic in 2009.

A dozen of the more than 400 passengers who have bought US$200,000 (Dh734,600) seats on the first craft to offer suborbital space flights come from the UAE.

All will have to take physical examinations to ensure they can bear the force of lift-off and re-entry.

The capital is also being floated as a possible launch point for space flights.

"It's possible that our first non-US base could be in Abu Dhabi," Stephen Attenborough, a director at Virgin Galactic, said last year.