High-end car manufacturers often set ownership criteria for their latest model. Ferrari, for instance, only made the LaFerrari available to people who had bought many cars from them in the past. And prospective Ford GT owners had to answer an exhaustive questionnaire to prove they were worthy. The Range Rover Astronaut edition goes several steps further, though, as it’s only available to people who have been into space.
Or, more specifically, people who have booked a seat on a Virgin Galactic flight – Future Astronauts as they are slightly cringingly known.
The Astronaut edition starts life as an ordinary Range Rover Autobiography, powered by either the P400e plug-in hybrid powertrain, or a supercharged V8. Each is finished in a unique shade of Zero Gravity Blue which, says Land Rover, was inspired by the “depth and intensity” of the night sky. That’ll be the night sky over a desert, rather than London. Otherwise the car would be bright orange.
Other touches include puddle lights showing a silhouette of the Virgin Galactic Space Ship Two flyer. The same motif is used on badges dotted around the car, as well. Inside, a “DNA of flight” design is liberally used on the dashboard and seats.
The most intriguing piece of the confection, though, is found in the front cupholders. Inside them are two discs made out of metal taken from the front skid of Unity flyer, which conducted Galactic’s first successful space flight in December 2018. The discs are inscribed with Richard Branson’s “See you up there” line and details of that first flight.
Once the owner has taken their flight, the discs are swapped out for wooden ones taken from the front skid used on that flight, again inscribed with the flight’s details.
Land Rover has been the official vehicle supplier to Virgin Galactic since 2014. The cars aren’t just used to ferry people about, either – a Range Rover is used to two the spaceship out of its hangar.
How much does the Astronaut edition cost? We don’t know, but any product of Land Rover Special Vehicle Operations is going to cost a pretty penny. And, of course, you have to already dropped a rumoured $250,000 on a Virgin Galactic ticket to even be eligible to buy one.
It’s safe to say it’ll be the most expensive souvenir in history.
By Graham King