Wannabe Chinese Space-Tourists Get Thumbs Down From US Government

By Chris Mills on at

2014 might be the year when Virgin Galactic finally takes its first £150,000 customers into space, but you're flat out of luck if you hail from China or North Korea -- Uncle Sam's too worried that you might steal the secret to Richard Branson's fabulous hair.

In actuality, it turns out that space technology -- all the rockets and space suits and other cool stuff that comprise Branson's spaceship -- comes under the thumb of the US's incredibly restrictive International Traffic in Arms (ITAR) export control. That means that anyone with a passport from restricted countries, like China and North Korea, are prohibited from riding Virgin Galactic .

Having had to be cleared just to use the loo in an ITAR-controlled building before, I can vouch for the seriousness with which the US wield the Cold War-era law to restrict the export of any valuable 'munitions', including not just space technology, but mundane stuff like encryption technology and radio protocols.

This isn't Virgin Galactic's first tangle with the law, either -- in 2012, Virgin Galactic had to get a special ITAR exemption just to allow any non-U.S. citizen to use Virgin Galactic. [Independent]