Virgin chief Branson fulfils ‘dream trip’ into space
Branson: dream of a lifetime
Sir Richard Branson today fulfilled a journey he had dreamed of since childhood after completing a flight in space.
The British entrepreneur was ecstatic after his Virgin Galactic spacecraft returned from a journey through the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere.
He held his arms high in triumph as he stepped off the aircraft in New Mexico and was greeted by daughter Holly’s twins Etta and Artie.
The 70-year-old said his mission was to make space more accessible and he was eager to see other aspiring astronauts share the experience.
VSS Unity 22 take-off
There had been considerable speculation over who among the world’s best known billionaires would be first into space, but Sir Richard denied he was in a race fellow tycoons, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Tesla’s Elon Musk who plan their own journeys into the atmosphere.
Virgin Galactic Holdings, announced that VSS Unity had successfully reached space, climbing to 280,000 sq ft and giving its four passengers a view of Earth.
Richard Branson and Unity 22 crew at spaceport for test flight
It was the 22nd test flight, the second to include passengers in the cabin and the first with a full crew. The first test flight carried Beth Moses in February 2019.
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 programme at Spaceport America.
Michael Colglazier, chief executive 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, before gliding smoothly to a runway landing at Spaceport America.
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 programme.
Sir Richard added: “I have dreamt about this moment since I was a child, but nothing could have prepared me for the view of Earth from space.
“We are at the vanguard of a new space age. As Virgin’s founder, I was honoured to test the incredible customer experience as part of this remarkable crew of mission specialists and now astronauts. I can’t wait to share this experience with aspiring astronauts around the world.”
He 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.”
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.