You could win a trip on the same Virgin Galactic space plane that flew Richard Branson to space

Bailey Schulz
USA TODAY

Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson returned from his first space flight on Sunday, touching down on Earth after a quick trip to the edge of space via the VSS Unity space plane.

The spaceflight company plans to eventually sell tickets for hundreds of thousands of dollars, but it's saving two seats on one of its next voyages for sweepstakes winners.  

Charity fundraising platform Omaze is giving away two tickets for one of the VSS Unity’s first commercial flights. The winner and one guest are set to be among the first everyday citizens to travel aboard a spacecraft.

You can enter through Aug. 31, and will support the nonprofit Space for Humanity, which aims to send citizen astronauts of diverse racial, economic and disciplinary backgrounds to space.  

VSS Unity flies to the edge of space, considered to be about 50 miles above sea level.

“Richard (Branson) and Space for Humanity are pioneering in democratizing access to space, making it something not just available to the ultra-high net worth individuals or astronauts but available to all humans,” Omaze CEO and co-founder Matt Pohlson told USA TODAY. “It’s really about making it available to everybody."

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How do I enter the sweepstakes?

Those interested can enter online at omaze.com/space. The minimum suggested donation is $10, although no donation is required to enter. Each $10 donation is equivalent to 100 entries, and there is a $300 donation cap. 

“Many talk about (space) as the next frontier of humanity,"  Pohlson said. "Our understanding space helps us understand who we are ... our human potential. We think all human beings should have access to unlock their potential.”

The sweepstakes are open to entries from around the world from those 18 and older. Virgin Galactic has yet to release information on when the flight will take off or where it will launch. 

VSS Unity will take off for its suborbital flight and land in Sierra County, New Mexico.

Rachel Lyons, the executive director of Space for Humanity, believes viewing Earth from space can offer a new perspective of the planet. She and the rest of the nonprofit are working to make this experience accessible to more people. 

"We all share this planet together. And we need to take care of it and we need to take care of each other," Lyons said. "By giving people around the world access to this experience and this perspective, we can begin to shift our relationship on a collective level with each other and with our planet."

Eighty percent of the net proceeds raised through the sweepstake supports Space for Humanity. The remaining 20% goes to Omaze, a for-profit company.

Virgin Galactic flight:Richard Branson is set to launch into space this weekend. Here's what to know.

What will the flight be like?

Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity undergoes checks before a test flight at the company's private facility in Mojave, California.

Branson launched from New Mexico on Sunday aboard the VSS Unity.

The space plane cannot achieve the speeds required for orbital flight and instead aims for suborbital flights (at an altitude of 50 miles above sea level) offering passengers a brief opportunity to view the Earth from above and experience zero gravity. Passengers experience about 4 minutes of weightlessness. 

Full details of the sweepstake winners' flight have not yet been announced, but Pohlson said they will have an experience similar to Branson's. 

“You’re going with the full Virgin Galactic experience,” he said. 

How much do space flight tickets cost?

Richard Branson, seen here in a replica of an early Virgin Galactic plane in 2012, will beat Amazon founder CEO Jeff Bezos to space by nine days.

Talk around civilian space travel has been picking up in recent months.

Another billionaire – Amazon founder Jeff Bezos – is set to take off for space on July 20, the 52nd anniversary of the 1969 moon landing by Apollo 11. Blue Origin, the aerospace company started by Bezos, auctioned off a seat on the flight for $28 million.  

Those who don’t win space flight auctions or sweepstakes can space travel – for a price.

Virgin Galactic plans to resume ticket sales for a 90-minute ride and hopes to launch full-revenue commercial flights in 2022. Approximately 600 reservations have been made for prices peaking at $250,000. 

Branson has said he doesn't expect prices to drop for another decade.

Contributing: Nate Chute, Algernon D'Ammassa, Las Cruces Sun-News