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Virgin Galactic Plans Passenger Space Travel

Also: A question from Russia about blue jeans. And music by jazz musician Hailey Niswanger. Transcript of radio broadcast:

Correction Attached


Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.


I'm Doug Johnson.

Today, we play jazz music by a young saxophonist, Hailey Niswanger …

And answer a question about the history of blue jeans ...

But first, we tell about one company's plan to send passengers into space.



Until now, space travel has been mostly limited to astronauts in government space programs. But seeing Earth from space may soon become a reality for wealthy people who dream of space travel.

Last week, British billionaire Sir Richard Branson showed his new spaceship Enterprise at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. He calls it the world's first commercial passenger spacecraft. Mario Ritter has our story.


Richard Branson founded Virgin Atlantic Airways. Now he has joined with aviation designer Burt Rutan to form a new space travel company, Virgin Galactic. Five years ago, Mister Rutan's SpaceShipOne became the first private craft to reach space.

The spacecraft made three suborbital flights. You can see SpaceShipOne at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington. Mister Rutan is now partners with Mister Branson to create a spacecraft for passengers.

Enterprise is the first of five planned SpaceShipTwo planes. The eighteen-meter long craft is designed tocarry two pilots and six passengers. Testing of SpaceShipTwo is expected to begin next year. The company hopes to begin sending passengers into space by two thousand eleven. Mister Branson says he plans to bring his son and daughter and his parents with him on the first flight.

The spacecraft will launch from Spaceport America in New Mexico. Mister Branson expects his company will be able to take one thousand people into space within the first year of operation. To date, only about five hundred people have traveled into space.

Passengers will pay two hundred thousand dollars to ride to outer space and back for two and a half hours. The flight includes about five minutes of weightlessness. Passengers will be required to have three days of training before the flights. About three hundred people have already paid money for the space flights.

Virgin Galactic expects to spend more than four hundred million dollars for five commercial spaceships and launch vehicles. But Richard Branson is not the only one working to make space flight available to the public. Several other people are also building their own rockets. They include Chief Executive Jeff Bezos, computer game programmer John Carmack and rocketeer Jeff Greason. Yet Virgin Galactic is expected to be the first to operate its spacecraft.



Our listener question this week comes from Russia. Alex Shestakov wants to know the history of blue jeans. Jeans are pants made from a kind of cloth called denim. For many people, blue jeans represent American culture.

The history of blue jeans usually begins with a man named Levi Strauss. He did not invent jeans. But he is considered the first person to manufacture and sell this kind of clothing in large amounts.

Levi Strauss was born in Bavaria, an area that today is part of Germany. In eighteen forty-seven he and his family immigrated to the United States.

He opened a small dry goods store, first in New York then in San Francisco, California. Among the products he sold were jeans. These pants were especially useful for miners in California who needed clothing made from a strong material.

Levi Strauss partnered with a clothing maker named Jacob Davis, who had invented a process for making rivets for jeans. These metal devices helped reinforce the blue jean cloth to make the pants stronger.

In eighteen seventy-three, Strauss and Davis received a patent to officially own this invention. They began producing "copper-riveted waist overalls." In nineteen twenty-eight the Levi Strauss company registered the word "Levi's" as a trademark for their product.

Nineteenth century workers would probably be surprised to know that their pants would one day become a fashion object. Today, jeans are worn by people of all ages, incomes and lifestyles. Jeans come in many colors other than blue and in many styles and prices. Fashion designers even create very costly jeans.

The Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., has one of the oldest known pairs of Levi's jeans in its collection. Jeans have come to express different ideas about American culture based on the people who wear them. These include the cowboy of the Wild West and famous Hollywood actors like James Dean and Marlon Brando in the nineteen fifties.

Writer James Sullivan published a book called "Jeans: A Cultural History of an American Icon." In the book, he says jeans serve as a sign for two American values, creativity and rebellion.



Hailey Niswanger is an award-winning alto saxophonist who has played with some of the biggest names in jazz. She has also performed at festivals and concerts around the world. Jazz critics are praising the joyful music on her first album, "Confeddie." Barbara Klein tells us more about this talented nineteen year old woman from Portland, Oregon.


Hailey Niswanger first began to play the clarinet when she was eight years old. She soon began exploring other instruments, including the flute and alto and soprano saxophones. In high school she began performing locally and around the country. She discovered how much fun jazz music was to play, because it is always changing. She said each new performance was different from the next one.

Hailey's hard work as a musician has paid off academically as well. She now attends the Berklee School of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, on a full scholarship.

Here is her version of "Four in One" from the album "Confeddie." The song was written by the jazz great Thelonious Monk.


Hailey Niswanger has performed at concerts and other gatherings alongside famous jazz artists. They include Wynton Marsalis, McCoy Turner, Red Holloway and DeeDee Bridgewater. She has said that it was a great experience to share a stage with them.

Here she performs the song "Serenity."


We leave you with a song Hailey Niswanger wrote herself. "Confeddie" is a combination of two words, "confetti" and "Eddie." Bits of paper called "confetti" are often used at parties, so Hailey chose a festive word for her festive music. And, Hailey wrote the song in the style of saxophonist Eddie Harris.



I'm Doug Johnson. Our program was written by Brianna Blake and Dana Demange who was also the producer. For transcripts, MP3s and podcasts of our programs, go to You can also comment on our programs.

Do you have a question about people, places or things in America? Send it to mosaic@voanews.comand we may answer it on this show.

Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA's radio magazine in Special English.


Correction: This story mistakenly called Berklee College of Music the Berklee School of Music.