Kottayam (Kerala), March 15 (IANS) Santhosh George Kulangara, 35, a travel freak from a village near here, is getting ready for a unique excursion. He will become the first Indian to journey into space on board the VVS Enterprise, Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic spaceship.
Kulangara has already visited more than 50 countries, has written two books on his travels - with two more in the pipeline - and he anchors a travelogue for a leading television channel here.
The frequent traveller is the managing director of Labour India Publications, which brings out educational material for schoolchildren.
Kulangara is very excited about becoming the first Indian to go into space as a tourist - a trip for which he made his bookings in 2004.
Speaking to IANS, he said the main aim for his three-hour excursion, which would cost close to Rs.1 crore, is to bring space closer to the common man.
"I have already reserved my seat for the journey and am 38th on the list. According to their current bookings, I am likely to be on the sixth or the seventh space trip, which would happen by mid-2008," said an excited Kulangara.
"They have agreed to let me film the entire journey. I am overjoyed as this will help me bring space nearer to the common man," he added.
When asked where he had got the money for the excursion, Kulangara said that a few national television channels have already agreed to sponsor his trip.
"Moreover, I have written two books on my travels and two more are coming out. So I do make a bit of money," he added.
Now Kulangara's routine is fully dedicated to his space journey: "I am keeping fit by doing exercises for an hour everyday. I get mails from Virgin Galactic regularly. They have asked me to be careful about my health because that is a crucial thing," said Kulangara.
Late astronaut Kalpana Chawla and scientist Stephen Hawkins are his idols. "Of course the biography of Sir Richard Branson, chairman of Virgin Galactic, has also influenced me greatly," he added.
What about his family?
"They are naturally very excited too - their only worry is about my re-entry into earth from space," said Kulangara.