President & Chief Executive Officer
George Whitesides is the CEO of Virgin Galactic, the spaceflight company founded by Sir Richard Branson. With Scaled Composites, the company has developed the SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo vehicles, based on the X Prize-winning SpaceShipOne. In his role, George is responsible for guiding the company to commercial operation at Spaceport America in New Mexico. This includes oversight of The Spaceship Company, a sister company, to manufacture a fleet of WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo space vehicles.
Prior to Virgin Galactic, George served as Chief of Staff for NASA, where he provided policy and staff support to the agency’s Administrator. Upon departure from NASA, he received the Distinguished Service Medal, the highest award the agency confers.
Prior to his role at NASA, George served as Executive Director of the National Space Society (NSS), a space policy and advocacy group that was founded by Apollo program leader Wernher von Braun and the journalist Hugh Downs.
George began his career at Orbital Sciences Corporation as Executive Intern, and later, Special Assistant to the President. He served as Vice President of Marketing for Zero Gravity Corporation, a private space-tourism company, during its launch period, and Director of Marketing for Blastoff Corporation, a space experience company funded by film and technology leaders.
Currently, George serves on the board of Virgin Unite USA, the philanthropic organization of Virgin Group. He is also a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Space Security, the X Prize Foundation’s Exploration Advisory Committee,Caltech’s Space Innovation Council, Princeton University’s Advisory Council for the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and the Rotary National Award for Space Achievement Foundation Advisory Board. He is a fellow of the UK’s Royal Aeronautical Society and an associate fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. He previously chaired the Reusable Launch Vehicle Working Group for the FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee. He served for four years on the Board of Trustees of Princeton University.
With his wife Loretta Hidalgo Whitesides, George co-founded Yuri’s Night, an annual global celebration of space that has been celebrated in more than 50 countries. He also cofounded Permission to Dream, a global space education program that donated telescopes to underprivileged children.
George has testified on American space policy before the United States Senate, the United States House of Representatives, and the President’s Commission on Implementation of United States Space Exploration Policy. Space News selected him as one of 12 “People to Watch” in the space industry.
An honors graduate of Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School, George earned his undergraduate degree in public and international affairs. He later earned a master’s degree in geographic information systems and remote sensing from the University of Cambridge in England, and was a Fulbright Scholar to Tunisia. George is a licensed private pilot and certified parabolic flight coach.