Billionaire and UK entrepreneur Richard Branson has successfully launched Virgin Galactic’s rocket plane into the edge of space. Branson a brash, charismatic London native businessman who founded Virgin Atlantic in 1984 and Virgin Galactic 20 years later had always dreamt of flying to space as a kid. Branson’s dream of space travel was eventually realized today while a celestial tourism into space took a leap forward during this historic flight from Spaceport America. The entrepreneur made it clear he wanted to evaluate the experience first before allowing paying customers aboard next year. He was accompanied on this mission by the vehicle’s two pilots, Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci, and three Galactic employees – Beth Moses, Colin Bennett and Sirisha Bandla. His presence on the test flight raised global interest and reflected his utmost confidence in his enterprise.
Branson and his crew experienced about 4-mints of weightlessness before their space plane smoothly glided to a runway. Earlier in the day the flight experienced delays for about 90-minutes due to bad weather reports from previous night. The mission into space eventually began shortly after 08:30 EST (15:30 BST). The entire trip lasted about an hour. “It was just magical”, says Branson as he return to planet Earth, “It’s 17 years of painstaking work, the occasional horrible down – and large ups with it. And today was definitrly the biggest up”
The space team were lifted to an altitude of more than eight miles by the aircraft. The height reached by the rocket plane, was 85km (282,000ft; 53 miles). Virgin Galactic has plans for two more test flights before commercial service begins in 2022. But the company already have more than 600 people signed up for space flight with an estimated $250,000 per person. Branson expresses his confidence saying “We’re here to make space more accessible to all,” he added, “We want to turn the next generation of dreamers into astronauts of today and tomorrow”.
The trip makes him the first of the new space tourism pioneers to try out their own vehicles, beating (Blue Origin) Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and SpaceX’s Elon Musk. Branson’s flight was initially planned for summer. He decided to move it up after competitor Blue Origin and its founder, Jeff Bezos, announced plans to ride their rocket into space on July 20. The businessman who turns 71 later in the week becomes the second oldest person to reach space after astronaut John Glenn on the shuttle at 77 in 1998. Branson expresses his optimism for others going to space by saying “I had my notebook with me and I’ve written down 30 or 40 little things that will make the experience for the next person who goes to space with us that much better.” He added “The only way sometimes you can find these little things is to get in a spaceship and go to space and experience it for yourself.”
It’s been such a long journey for Sir Richard Branson to earn the new space tourism pioneer title. He first announced his intention to make a space plane in 2004, with the expectation he’d have a commercial service available by 2007. But encountering technical difficulties, including a fatal crash during a development flight in 2014 where one pilot died and another injured, have made the space project one of the most challenging ventures of his entire career. Virgin Galactic reached space for the first time in 2018 and recorded another successful flight in 2019. The company gained permission from the Federal aviation Administration last month to start launching to customers.
After the flight Branson received several congratulations including from space rival Jeff Bezos. Bezos sent a congratulatory message to Branson and his team for a successful flight to space and ended with a “Cant wait to join the club!” remark. “Congrats to @richardbranson & the entire team @virgingalactic!” tweeted Gen. Jay Raymond, chief of space operations for the U.S. Space Force. “Your years of hard work & dedication paid off today with a flawless flight to the edge of Space.” Branson also in a tweet said “I was once a child with a dream looking up to the stars. Now I’m an adult in a spaceship looking down to our beautiful Earth. To the next generation of dreamers: if we can do this, just imagine what you can do”. R&B singer-songwriter Khalid performed his new song “New Normal” after Branson and his entourage returned to Earth. Livestream of the event was broadcasted across several platforms.