Virgin Galactic's Richard Branson takes off into space - Africa News Quick
  • July 11, 2021

Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson takes off into space

Richard Branson and his Virgin Galactic crew flew to the edge of space from New Mexico on Sunday, fulfilling a 17-year ambition for the British billionaire and opening the latest chapter in commercial space tourism.

The rocket plane called SpaceShipTwo took off from Spaceport America, about 180 miles south of Albuquerque, with two pilots and four people in the cockpit.

An aircraft from the mothership brought the spacecraft, the VSS Unity, to an altitude of 50,000 feet before the rocket plane activated and separated at 11:25 a.m. to carry passengers 50 miles above Earth. They got a view of the planet that few people have ever enjoyed.

“The views are breathtaking, there is no question. We are very fortunate to have this planet that we all live on, ”Branson said after the flight. “It is indescribable.”

There is debate as to whether the spacecraft actually made it into space, did not enter orbit, but the passengers felt a period of weightlessness before the plane returned to Earth and glided to a safe landing before noon.

Branson joins Elon Musk of SpaceX and Tesla fame and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in the multimillionaire race into space.

Their investments ushered in an exploration phase that relies on private industry and public-private partnerships rather than keeping space travel within the purview of NASA.

SpaceX launched a crewed trip to the International Space Station in 2020 and Bezos’ Blue Origin will head into space later this month with the former Amazon CEO on board.

Musk was in attendance in New Mexico to cheer on Branson, the adventurous leader of Virgin companies, known for his white blonde locks and sassy promotions.

Travel is captivating modern society and sparks debates about the environmental impact of efforts and whether the money is well spent, given humanity’s problems on the ground.

For now, space trips are open to an exclusive wealthy club.

“I have known Richard for years, ”said late-night TV host Stephen Colbert in the introduction. “I’ve never been to your private island, but it’s okay.

Space trips are open to an exclusive club of the wealthy, at least for now, although there were cameras on board the Virgin Galactic to transmit images to all the inhabitants of Earth.

The Virgin Galactic team said everything went smoothly except for some transmission issues from the cockpit. However, the action was recorded inside the cockpit, so the images will be available.

“I definitely want to see the tapes,” Branson said.

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