Billionaire Richard Branson has successfully reached space. Around 5.30 p.m., the spaceship Unity from Branson‘s company Virgin Galactic reached 80 kilometers high, according to NASA the space border.
Branson, the two pilots and the other three crew members were weightless for a few minutes before returning to Earth. Images showed how they floated through the cabin. Just fifteen minutes later, Unity landed safely on Earth again.
The flight was live to follow:
“This is one of the most beautiful moments of my life,” said a broadsmiling Branson (70) in an initial response from Unity. He thanked all Virgin Galactic employees who made it possible. “This is the beginning of a new era in space.”
“I dreamed of this as a child, but nothing can prepare for the view from space,” Branson said again when he was back on Earth. “It was just magic.” His grandchildren embraced him when he stepped out of Unity.
It was the first fully manned space flight for the company after 22 pilot flights (three of them manned). Unity got a lift by plane up to a height of 15 kilometres, one and a half times the height of an intercontinental scheduled flight. Then it was disconnected and the spacecraft shot up at almost 3 times the speed of sound.
The crew could see the curves of the Earth and the darkness of space. In total, the trip takes an hour and a half.
Branson wants to offer these flights to rich spacecourists. For that, several hundred tickets have been sold, at $250,000 apiece. After landing, Branson also announced a raffle that will allow two tickets to space, preceded by a guided tour of himself.
Branson’s flight left one week before Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos planned its own launch. Bezos goes a little further, up to 100 kilometers high, which many scientists see as the real boundary of space.
Branson spoke of a friendly rivalry between him, Bezos and Tesla top man Elon Musk. Bezos wished Branson a lot of success and a preserved flight on Instagram yesterday. Musk tweeted “Good Journey” to Branson and told him to wish the best. Musk scheduled a manned flight for September.