70-year-old British billionaire Richard Branson has done it. On 11 July he jetted off to space in his own spaceship Virgin Galactic ‘Unity 22’. With this, he became the first person to venture into space tourism beating Jeff Bezos by just nine days. Branson, who was supposed to fly later this year, insists he’s not trying to beat Bezos and that it’s not a space race. ‘Seventeen years of hard work to get us this far,” Branson said as he congratulated his team as the VSS Unity spaceship glided back to Spaceport America in New Mexico.
“Today’s flight was the 22nd test flight of VSS Unity and the first test flight with a full crew in the cabin, including the Company’s founder, Sir Richard Branson. The crew fulfilled a number of test objectives related to the cabin and customer experience, including evaluating the commercial customer cabin, the views of Earth from space, the conditions for conducting research and the effectiveness of the five-day pre-flight training program at Spaceport America,” the company said.
Michael Colglazier, Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Galactic, said: “Today is a landmark achievement for the Company and a historic moment for the new commercial space industry. With each successful mission, we are paving the way for the next generation of astronauts. I want to thank our talented team, including our pilots and crew, whose dedication and commitment made today possible. They are helping open the door for greater access to space – so it can be for the many and not just for the few.”
VSS Unity achieved a speed of Mach 3 after being released from the mothership, VMS Eve. The vehicle reached space, at an altitude of 53.5 miles (85 kilometres), allowing the passengers to experience weightlessness and admire the Earth’s curvature. before gliding smoothly to a runway landing at Spaceport America.
It reached a peak altitude of around 53 miles (85 kilometres) — beyond the boundary of space, according to the United States — allowing the passengers to experience weightlessness and admire the Earth’s curvature. The touchdown occurred at around 9:40 am Mountain Time (1540 GMT), about an hour after take-off.
This seminal moment for Virgin Galactic and Sir Richard Branson was witnessed by audiences around the world. It gave a glimpse of the journey Virgin Galactic’s Future Astronauts can expect when the Company launches commercial service following the completion of its test flight program.
“To all you kids down there…”Richard Branson ‘s message from zero gravity
“To all you kids down there, I was once a child with a dream. Looking up to the stars. Now, I’m an adult in a spaceship with lots of other wonderful adults looking down to our beautiful, beautiful Earth,” an ecstatic Branson said.
“To the next generation of dreamers, if we can do this, just imagine what you can do,” he further added before unlatching his belt and soaking in space with the rest of the crew.
Branson continued, “Our mission is to make space more accessible to all. In that spirit, and with today’s successful flight of VSS Unity, I’m thrilled to announce a partnership with Omaze and Space for Humanity to inspire the next generation of dreamers. For so long, we have looked back in wonder at the space pioneers of yesterday. Now, I want the astronauts of tomorrow to look forward and make their own dreams come true.”
Members of first test flight with a full crew in the cabin
The mission specialists in the cabin were Beth Moses, Chief Astronaut Instructor; Colin Bennett, Lead Flight Operations Engineer; Sirisha Bandla, Vice President of Government Affairs and Research Operations; and the Company’s founder, Sir Richard Branson. The VSS Unity pilots were Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci, while Kelly Latimer and CJ Sturckow piloted VMS Eve.
SpaceX’s Elon Musk, arrived in New Mexico to witness the flight, wishing Mr Branson via Twitter, “Godspeed!”. Bezos himself wished Branson “best of luck” in an Instagram post.
Blue Origin highlighted this fact, and several other features of New Shepard, in a tweet on Friday that compared the spacecraft with Virgin Galactic’s Space Ship Two. Blue Origin posted an infographic Friday boasting the ways in which they experience it offers is superior.
Jeff Bezos is due to fly on July 20 on Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket. Blue Origin posted an infographic Friday boasting the ways in which they experience it offers is superior. Although Tesla and SpaceX boss Elon Musk has not announced any such flight to date.
Richard Branson vs Jeff Bezos vs Elon Musk in space race
Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin plans the flight in a rocket. The trip will last a total of 11 minutes, including the four minutes that passengers will spend above the Karman line. The Karman line marks the recognized boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and space.
SpaceX’s Elon Musk plans to send the capsules all the way to orbit space. “There is a big difference between reaching space and reaching orbit,” Musk said last week on Twitter.
More than 600 have reserved seats with Virgin Galactic at $250,000. Blue Origin expects to announce prices and open ticket sales once Bezos flies.