Source: AP News
Richard Branson, the esteemed owner of Virgin Galactic, launches himself into space with the intent to demonstrate his spaceplane’s readiness to accept passengers to one thrill-fueled ride.
Last Sunday, the 70-year-old entrepreneurial powerhouse, along with pilots David Mackay and Michael Masucci, Virgin astronaut trainer Beth Moses, flight engineer Colin Bennett and Sirisha Bandla, the company’s vice president of government relations, has zoomed himself to an altitude just above 50 miles, giving Branson and his crewmates three minutes of weightlessness, coupled with a spectacular view of the Earth.
“I have dreamt of this moment since I was a kid, but honestly, nothing could prepare you for the view of Earth from space,” Branson said after landing, at a rare loss for words. “It was just magical. I’m just taking it all in; it’s unreal.”
As Richard Branson expressed, the flight was breathtaking, effectively upstaging another business mogul, Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos, who was planning a sub-orbital spaceflight on July 20, 2021, aboard his own spacecraft, the Blue Origin’s New Shepard. These two powerhouses, Branson and Bezos, are out to compete against each other in the emerging commercial space marketplace.
Despite the competition, Jeff Bezos complimented Branson on his recent achievement by posting on Instagram, saying, “Congratulations on the flight. Can’t wait to join the club!”
The flight to space dramatically happened in the company’s Spaceport America launch site near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, with the VSS Unity rocket-powered spaceplane bolted under its wing.
While many people would have seen this as an impossible endeavor, Richard Branson’s recent feat proves that anything is possible with a giant leap of faith.
“To all you kids down there, I was once a child with a dream looking up to the stars,” Branson said while his crewmates were enjoying their brief minutes of weightlessness. “Now I’m an adult, in a spaceship with lots of other wonderful adults, looking down to our beautiful, beautiful Earth.”
“To the next generation of dreamers: If we can do this, just imagine what you can do!” he said before floating out of his seat.
Mike Moses, Virgin president for space flight and safety, shared in an interview that the spaceplane, Unity, was in great shape during its flight.
“We’ve looked at the data, we’ve done our quick engineering walk around, and the ship looks pristine—no issues whatsoever,” he said. “We’ll take our time, do all the detailed inspections, and then we’ll figure out when we’re ready to go again. But the ship looked perfect,” he added.
Last Sunday marked Unity’s 22nd test flight, fourth trip to space, and Virgin’s first with six people on board. It is also Richard Branson’s first trip to space.
“I’ve said this so many times—it really wasn’t a race,” Branson said. “We’re just delighted that everything went so fantastically well.”
Virgin plans to have two more test flights, but the company hopes to launch itself commercially in the early months of 2022 at $250,000 or more per seat.