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Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth

And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings …

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue

I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.

Where never lark, or even eagle flew —

And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod

The high untrespassed sanctity of space,

– Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

Almost anyone who has had a lifelong fascination with space exploration has read these famous lines, written by a young pilot while serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II. John Gillespie Magee Jr.’s poetry has uplifted, inspired and consoled millions.

Its powerful message has endured across the decades. Fourth class cadets at the United States Air Force Academy are required to recite it from memory. Astronaut Michael Collins brought it to space on his Gemini 10 flight. President Ronald Reagan quoted it in a nationwide broadcast on the night of the Challenger disaster in 1986.

The poem evokes the wonder of flight and the joyful freedom of soaring high above the Earth. As someone who has always been inspired by space exploration, it has also been a favorite of mine. It articulates what I have always believed — space is an exciting frontier, and I want to be part of it.

As a mining executive living in Vancouver, Canada, that possibility for me may seem remote with. But the reality is that every day the probability grows for me. That is because years ago I placed my name on the waiting list of Virgin Galactic, the space tourism venture conceived and helmed by British entrepreneur Richard Branson. After years of testing and meeting rigorous standards to obtain a myriad of regulatory approvals, this year Virgin Galactic began taking paying customers 80 kilometers into space, aboard a rocket that is launched from a specially engineered spaceplane.

I am currently astronaut in waiting number 444 on the list, substantially higher than the original lengthy manifest. Over the years many have dropped off this list, mostly out of impatience, but my desire to travel beyond our atmosphere burns more intensely than ever.

Virgin Galactic’s second commercial space mission will fly this August. If all goes well with this “Galactic 02” mission, the company will stage monthly missions into space. As I wait my turn, I will be training and planning to make the most of my voyage, during which I will experience thrilling velocities and periods of weightlessness. The truth is, I have long been mentally prepared for the mission. It’s a goal that once seemed distant, but with the success of Richard Branson’s company and dramatic advances in space technology, it comes closer year by year, month by month.

Virgin Galactic describes its space initiative this way:  “As the spaceline for Earth, we aim to transform access to space for the benefit of humankind; to reveal the wonder of space to more people than ever before. Join us, and help pioneer this exciting new space age for humanity.”

It’s a call I’ve long dreamt of answering, waiting to the end of a countdown to a wondrous, once-in-a-lifetime adventure.