Another celebrity space tourist rumor debunked


Kate Winslet at the reception following the dedication of the Virgin Galactic terminal building at Spaceport America in October 2011. Despite her presence there, and one tabloid’s claims, she’s not going to space. (credit: J. Foust)

Over the last several years there’s been a minor cottage industry of rumors regarding celebrities who may or may not be going into space as tourists. Sometimes, sure enough, the rumors are true: after months of whispers about her potential interest in a spaceflight, Space Adventures announced in October that singer Sarah Brightman had signed up for a flight to the ISS, most likely in 2015. (Although more recently some Russian officials have raised doubts regarding whether she’ll actually fly.) For every one that does turn out to be true, though, there are many more that turn out to be false.

A case in point: on Friday, the UK tabloid The Sun reported exclusively that actress Kate Winslet has received a free ticket on a Virgin Galactic flight as a wedding present. The report seemed to make some sense: her new husband, Ned Rockandroll, works at Virgin Galactic and is the nephew to Sir Richard Branson. (Winslet accompanied Rocknroll to the dedication of Virgin Galactic’s terminal building at Spaceport America in New Mexico in October 2011.) And, The Sun claimed, the gift was also an expression for appreciation after Winslet helped save Branson’s mother from a fire at Branson’s Necker Island vacation home last year.

There’s just one problem with that nicely tied together story: it’s not true. While many other media outlets more or less repeated the claims in The Sun’s report verbatim, one paragon of journalism decided to check it out: E! Online, the web site of the E! cable television network. A spokesperson for Winslet told E! that the report wasn’t true and had been “invented a while ago” but repackaged, in effect, to tie it into the wedding. Another rumor bites the dust, but have patience: soon enough, some other celebrity will be linked, correctly or not, to space tourism…

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