Hundreds of spectators cheered at the base after landing, and Branson ran to his family, hugged his wife and children, and took three grandchildren in his arms. “It’s a life experience,” he praised the entrepreneur after returning to Spaceport America. “I’ve been dreaming about this since childhood,” said the billionaire, “but nothing can prepare me to look at Earth from space.” “We are at the forefront of the new space age,” Branson added.
“It was an amazing achievement,” said Chris Hadfield, a former Canadian astronaut. “I am very pleased with where this open door will lead us now. It is a huge moment,” said the former commander of the International Space Station (ISS).
For the test flight, the spacecraft took off after 16:30 CET from the US spaceport in the US state of New Mexico, and after about an hour, the plane landed there. The start was originally planned for 15:00 CEST, but due to the weather it was postponed by an hour and a half.
Sunday, 22, was the first with a full crew of six. It consisted of pilots Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci and four “mission specialists” including Branson. His job was to evaluate the commercial shuttle user experience before Virgin Galactic began offering space travel to paying tourists. Of the 21 previous test flights, three were conducted with people on board.
The VSS Unity shuttle itself brought the VMS Eve aircraft to an altitude of about 15 kilometers. Then the shuttle separated, ignited its own engines, and climbed a steep ascent as far as 90 kilometers above the Earth’s surface. Then the crew remained in a state of weightlessness for a few minutes, after which they returned to Earth in a shuttle.
Virgin Galactic previously announced that it expects to launch its commercial space services next year. However, this should be preceded by two more test flights. According to the Associated Press, Sunday’s flight was supposed to boost confidence in space tourism offered by Virgin Galactic.
billionaire vs billionaire
Branson was launched into space just nine days before another company, Blue Origin, noticed a similar milestone with the suborbital New Shepard. Blue Origin expects to fire its boss, Jeff Bezos, the billionaire and founder of Amazon, who recently resigned as CEO of the online store giant, on July 20. He will be accompanied by a small crew.
Bezos’ flight will take place on the 52nd anniversary of the first moon landing, Apollo 11 in 1969. Branson said in interviews that he was inspired to travel to space while pursuing the same mission in his youth. Branson has also recently publicly denied that he and Bezos are competing for the first to enter space; However, Bezos is mostly silent on this matter.
One of Branson’s biggest competitors in the space tourism sector is also SpaceX chief Elon Musk, who, according to the Associated Press, was among the spectators of the historic flight live in New Mexico, and also wished Branson a happy flight via Twitter.
Are you really going to fly into space?
Both billionaires announced that they would fly into space, but in reality it is much more complicated. It depends on the definition of outer space or the universe they are using. SpaceShipTwo flights usually fly just below the Karman line, an altitude limit of one hundred kilometers, which many people consider the edge of space. However, VSS Unity has already made three test flights with crews above the 80-kilometre level, which has been recognized as the limit of space by NASA, the US Army and the US Federal Aviation Administration.