Virgin Galactic has appointed its first Chief Executive this week, as the space tourism company moves ever closer to making commercial travel into space a reality.

Virgin Galactic is now headed up by ex-NASA Chief of Staff George T Whitesides.

"In this role, Whitesides will guide the business through its transition from a development project to a commercially operational business," Virgin Galactic announced on its website.

"Whitesides joins Virgin Galactic from his recent role as Chief of Staff of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

"At NASA, Whitesides was responsible for working to implement the NASA Administrator's policy agenda and staffing decisions."

Start saving for that space trip

It is a canny hire. Whitesides formerly worked as a member of the NASA Presidential Transition Team, Executive Director of the National Space Society, and Chair of the Reusable Launch Vehicle Working Group of the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee.

He is also, "a licensed private pilot and certified parabolic flight coach, a graduate of Cambridge and Princeton Universities and a former Fulbright Scholar."

Virgin Galactic President, Will Whitehorn, said of his new CEO: 'We are delighted that George has agreed to become our first Chief Executive to guide the Galactic project as it transitions into a fully fledged operating business.

"He joins Virgin Galactic at a momentous moment in the development of the company. Test flying of the first SpaceshipTwo (VSS Enterprise) has commenced and our future home at Spaceport America in New Mexico is at an advanced stage of construction. In addition our commercial team has accepted over $65m worth of reservations from 335 future astronauts and the Company is holding deposits of over $45 million."

Whitesides adds that there is, "much to achieve at Virgin Galactic over the coming years as the company moves from the extensive test flying program and FAA licensing process into commercial operation of frequent spaceflights from our new home at Spaceport America in New Mexico."

Fancy that trip into Space in 2015? You better start saving now...

Via Virgin Galactic