Billionaire Richard Branson reaches space in his own ship

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Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson is greeted by college youngsters earlier than heading to board the rocket aircraft that may fly him to the sting of space from Spaceport America close to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, Sunday, July 11, 2021. Credit: AP Photo/Andres Leighton

Swashbuckling entrepreneur Richard Branson hurtled into space aboard his own winged rocket ship Sunday in his boldest journey but, beating out fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos.

The almost 71-year-old Branson and 5 crewmates from his Virgin Galactic space tourism firm reached an altitude of about 53 miles (88 kilometers) over the New Mexico desert—sufficient to expertise three to 4 minutes of weightlessness and see the curvature of the Earth—after which safely glided house to a runway touchdown.

“Seventeen years of hard work to get us this far,” a jubilant Branson mentioned as he congratulated his crew on the journey again aboard the modern white space aircraft, named Unity.

He pumped each fists as he stepped out onto the runway and ran towards his household, bear-hugging his spouse and kids and scooping up his three grandchildren in his arms.

The temporary, up-and-down flight—the rocket ship’s portion took solely about quarter-hour, or about so long as Alan Shepard’s first U.S. spaceflight in 1961—was meant as a confidence-boosting plug for Virgin Galactic, which plans to begin taking paying prospects on joyrides subsequent yr.






Branson grew to become the primary particular person to blast off in his own spaceship, beating Bezos by 9 days. He additionally grew to become solely the second septuagenarian to depart for space. (Astronaut John Glenn flew on the shuttle at age 77 in 1998.)

With about 500 folks watching, together with Branson’s household, a twin-fuselage plane with his space aircraft connected beneath took off in the primary stage of the flight. The space aircraft then indifferent from the mom ship at an altitude of about 8 1/2 miles (13 kilometers) and fired its engine, reaching greater than Mach 3, or thrice the velocity of sound, because it pierced the sting of space.

Billionaire Richard Branson reaches space in his own ship
Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson waves good bye whereas heading to board the rocket aircraft that may fly him to space from Spaceport America close to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, Sunday, July 11, 2021. Credit: AP Photo/Andres Leighton

The crowd cheered and yelled because it touched down on the runway. Some spectators jumped into the air. Others embraced and shared hugs.

“That was an amazing accomplishment,” former Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, a one-time commander of the International Space Station, mentioned from the sidelines. “I’m just so delighted at what this open door is going to lead to now. It’s a great moment.”

Virgin Galactic performed three earlier take a look at flights into space with crews of simply two or three.

Billionaire Richard Branson reaches space in his own ship
The rocket aircraft carrying Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson and different crew members takes off from Spaceport America close to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, Sunday, July 11, 2021. Credit: AP Photo/Andres Leighton

The flamboyant, London-born founding father of Virgin Atlantic Airways wasn’t presupposed to fly till later this summer time. But he assigned himself to an earlier flight after Bezos introduced plans to experience his own rocket into space from Texas on July 20, the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon touchdown. Branson denied he was attempting to outdo Bezos.

Before climbing aboard, Branson, who has kite-surfed the English Channel and tried to circle the world in a hot-air balloon, signed the astronaut log e book and wisecracked: “The name’s Branson. Sir Richard Branson. Astronaut Double-oh one. License to thrill.”

One of Branson’s chief rivals in the space-tourism race among the many world’s richest males, SpaceX’s Elon Musk, arrived in New Mexico to witness the flight, wishing Branson by way of Twitter, “Godspeed!”

Bezos likewise despatched his needs for a secure and profitable flight, although he additionally took to Twitter to enumerate the methods in which be believes his firm’s rides shall be higher.

Billionaire Richard Branson reaches space in his own ship
This May 29, 2018 photograph made out there by Virgin Galactic reveals the corporate’s VSS Unity on its second supersonic flight. After reaching almost 50,000 toes (15,000 meters), Unity shall be launched from the specifically designed plane Mothership Eve, and drop for a second or two earlier than its rocket motor ignites to ship the craft on a steep climb towards space. Credit: Virgin Galactic by way of AP

Bezos’ Blue Origin firm intends to ship vacationers previous the so-called Karman line 62 miles (100 kilometers) above Earth, which is is acknowledged by worldwide aviation and aerospace federations as the brink of space.

But NASA, the Air Force, the Federal Aviation Administration and a few astrophysicists contemplate the boundary between the ambiance and space to start 50 miles (80 kilometers) up.

The dangers to Branson and his crew have been underscored in 2007, when a rocket motor take a look at in California’s Mojave Desert left three employees lifeless, and in 2014, when a Virgin Galactic rocket aircraft broke aside throughout a take a look at flight, killing one pilot and severely injuring the opposite.

Ever the showman, Branson insisted on a world livestream of the Sunday morning flight and invited celebrities and former space station astronauts to the corporate’s Spaceport America base in New Mexico.

Billionaire Richard Branson reaches space in his own ship
The Virgin Galactic rocket aircraft is launched by the mothership heading to space with founder Richard Branson on board seen from Spaceport America close to Truth or Consequences, N.M., Sunday, July 11, 2021. Credit: AP Photo/Andres Leighton

R&B singer Khalid carried out his new single “New Normal”—a nod to the dawning of space tourism—whereas CBS “Late Show” host Stephen Colbert served because the occasion’s grasp of ceremonies.

Virgin Galactic already has greater than 600 reservations from would-be space vacationers, with tickets initially costing $250,000 apiece. Blue Origin is ready for Bezos’ flight earlier than saying its ticket costs.

Kerianne Flynn, who signed up in 2011 to fly with Virgin Galactic, had butterflies forward of the launch Sunday.

“I think there’s going to be nothing like going up there and looking back down on the Earth, which is what I think I’m most excited about,” she mentioned. She added: “Hopefully the next generations will be able to explore what’s up there,” she mentioned.

Musk’s SpaceX, which is already launching astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA and is constructing moon and Mars ships, can also be competing for space tourism {dollars}. But its capsules will do greater than make temporary, up-and-down forays; they may go into orbit across the Earth, with seats costing properly into the hundreds of thousands. Its first personal flight is ready for September.

  • Billionaire Richard Branson reaches space in his own ship
    Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson, proper, is greeted by college youngsters earlier than heading to board the rocket aircraft that may fly him to the sting of space from Spaceport America close to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, Sunday, July 11, 2021. Credit: AP Photo/Andres Leighton
  • Billionaire Richard Branson reaches space in his own ship
    Sirisha Bandla, Virgin Galactic’s Vice President of Government Affairs and Research Operations, and one of many passengers accompanying Richard Branson, waves to the group earlier than heading to board the rocket aircraft that may fly them to space from Spaceport America close to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, Sunday, July 11, 2021. Credit: AP Photo/Andres Leighton
  • Billionaire Richard Branson reaches space in his own ship
    A photographer prepares his digital camera because the solar rises over Spaceport America earlier than Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson launches to space aboard his own rocket ship close to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, Sunday, July 11, 2021. Credit: AP Photo/Andres Leighton
  • Billionaire Richard Branson reaches space in his own ship
    Special company chat as they anticipate Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson’s launch to space aboard his own rocket ship close to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, Sunday, July 11, 2021. Credit: AP Photo/Andres Leighton
  • Billionaire Richard Branson reaches space in his own ship
    The Virgin Galactic rocket aircraft, with founder Richard Branson and different crew members on board, lands again in Spaceport America close to Truth or Consequences, N.M., Sunday, July 11, 2021. Credit: AP Photo/Andres Leighton

Musk himself has not dedicated to going into space anytime quickly.

“It’s a whole new horizon out there, new opportunities, new destinations,” mentioned former NASA astronaut Chris Ferguson, who commanded the final shuttle flight 10 years in the past. He now works for Boeing, which is test-flying its own space capsule.

“This is really sort of like the advent of commercial air travel, only 100 years later,” Ferguson added. “There’s a lot waiting in the wings.”


Branson mum on when he’ll launch to space on Virgin Galactic


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