(Source: Virgin Galactic)
Meanwhile Bitcoin hits $900 USD earlier this week

A day of grilling in a special Senate session didn't sink the Bitcoin -- the popular nation agnostic peer-to-peer cryptocurrency.  If anything the U.S. Senate's ponderings on whether to ban the third-party currency ignited more public awareness and interest sending Bitcoins to new highs.  After only htting $400 USD per Bitcoin for the first time last week, on Monday speculators drove Bitcoins up to a new high of $900+ USD per Bitcoin, before things fell back down to Earth at around $450-500 USD.

In the past few days since, Bitcoin has been back on the rise, creeping upwards to its present value of around $770 USD.

And on Friday the Bitcoin received a nice boost from an unlike source -- Sir Richard Branson, owner of Britain's Virgin Group empire.  Sir Branson outed himself as a Bitcoin enthusiast on Friday, announcing that he would allow customers to pay for flights aboard his upcoming Virgin Galactic suborbital spaceflight service.

Virgin Galactic
Sir Richard Branson

He writes:

Two years ago, one bitcoin was valued at less than $10. Earlier this week  one bitcoin’s value reached $900, tripling in the past month, and a US Senate committee hearing deemed it a legitimate financial service.
I have invested in some bitcoins myself, and find it fascinating how a whole new global currency has been created. For people who can afford to invest a little in bitcoins, it’s worth looking into. Many people and organisations are - today a Cyprus university is allowing students to pay their tuition fees with bitcoins.

The lack of transparency from Bitcoin’s founders has attracted some criticism, but its open source nature means anyone can audit the code. It is a brilliantly conceived idea to allow users to power the peer-to-peer payment network themselves, providing control and freedom for consumers.

Bitcoins aren’t yet formally recognized by governments as a currency but with some regulation I hope that it will become more widely accepted. A few years ago many people had doubts about whether Virgin Galactic would ever get off the ground. Now we have gone supersonic, are a long way along the testing process, and are looking forward to launching commercial space travel.

Whether his comments are shameless promotion (looking to tie his service to a hot news item and/or to inflate the value of his own Bitcoin investment) or simply earnest enthusiasm is impossible to discern, but one thing's for sure -- he's likely made some Bitcoin miners/investors' days.

Virgin Galactic Spaceship II
Virgin Galactic Spaceship II on a September test flight

At their current rate it would take around 260 to 335 Bitcoins to pay for a Virgin Galactic flight, which is expected to cost around $200-250K USD.  The upcoming suborbital craft -- the Spaceship Two -- was fitted with its new rocket engine and this April it saw its first supersonic test.  In September it completed another powered flight test.  These tests follow the 2008 unveiling of the second-generation aerial launch platform, the White Knight II.

Source: Richard Branson

"A politician stumbles over himself... Then they pick it out. They edit it. He runs the clip, and then he makes a funny face, and the whole audience has a Pavlovian response." -- Joe Scarborough on John Stewart over Jim Cramer

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