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NASA Astronaut From Stockton Says Virgin Galactic Voyage Brings New Normal For Space Travel

STOCKTON (CBS13) – Stockton native and NASA astronaut Jose Hernandez is all in for the new era in space flight.

After Virgin Galactic's successful first voyage to the edge of space Sunday, Hernandez spoke to CBS13 about the "new normal" in space travel.

It is a new kind of space race. Hernandez watched Richard Branson's successful trip to the edge of space.

"The good thing about it is we have three good viable companies that are going to give us access to space," he said.

Besides Branson, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are also planning trips with their space companies – Bezos later this month. Hernandez says if offered a seat, his answer would be easy.

"In a heartbeat, in a heartbeat, I would love to go back up," he said.

Hernandez went to the International Space Station in 2009 and says this new opportunity in space travel means more people will have an opportunity to see the world in this new way -- a profound experience that could even prevent conflicts.

"From this perspective, we're just one, I wish our leaders, now that space tourism is coming online, it should be a requirement that any world leader that comes into power takes a space flight and see our world from that perspective," he said.

Hernandez says besides space tourism, Virgin Galactic's success could also lead to much faster travel on Earth.

"If you can imagine leaving New York and going to Singapore in an hour as opposed to a 14-hour plane ride," he said.

Space flight for civilians is no longer a vision for the future. It's available now.

Hernandez pointed out fewer than 600 people have ever experienced space flight up until now. That number could rise dramatically in the coming years.

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