Virgin Galactic, the company aimed at taking tourists to space, is accepting the digital currency bitcoin as payment for future space travel.

Richard Branson, the British billionaire who founded the futuristic company, called bitcoin "a brilliantly conceived idea" that has "really captured the imagination recently."

"All of our future astronauts are pioneers in their own right," Branson wrote in a blog post titled "Bitcoins in space." "This is one more way to be forward-looking."

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One flight attendant from Hawaii has already purchased her Virgin Galactic ticket with bitcoins, Branson said.

"I hope that it will become more widely accepted," he wrote. "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 flight."

Virgin's acceptance of bitcoins comes at an interesting time for the virtual currency. It has been the subject of recent congressional hearings. One university in Cyprus started accepting bitcoins as payment for tuition and other school fees, and CheapAir.com, an online travel agency based in Los Angeles, is accepting the digital money for flights.

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Bitcoin's notoriety soared after the recent arrest of Ross Ulbricht, a 29-year-old from San Francisco who allegedly masterminded the online drug emporium Silk Road. Fans say it is a form of money that is not connected to any nation or government, while critics say it is used often for buying illegal substances online.

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