Did Richard Branson really fly into space? Neil deGrasse Tyson weighs in
Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has expressed doubts about whether billionaire Richard Branson really flew into space and posed several questions over its technicality. “First of all, it was suborbital. Nasa did it 60 years ago with Alan Shepard, took off from Cape Canaveral and landed in the ocean,” deGrasse Tyson said in an interview with CNN. "If you don't go fast enough to reach orbit you will fall and return to Earth," he added.
According to CNN, Neil deGrasse Tyson said that neither Richard Branson nor Jeff Bezos has actually been put into orbit. “So, did you get high enough? Did you go into orbit? Did you actually go anywhere? Did you go to the Moon, to Mars or beyond?" he said.
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The astrophysicist explained the orbit of the International Space Station and that of a spacecraft orbit would be 1cm from the scale model and the moon would be more than 10 metres away. However, the border that Richard Branson reached is less than 2 millimetres from the surface, he said.
“It's okay if you want to call it 'space,' because average humans haven't gotten there before and it's a first for you. That's why it takes eight minutes to get into orbit and three days to reach the moon," he told CNN. ". That is actually space travel. So I don't see it as 'oh, let's go into space'. No. What you are going to have is a nice view of the Earth," he added.
“I don't even know if you are going to see the curvature. I did some calculations and I think not. If you are 2 millimetres from the surface of this globe, you don't have the full perspective. It is a visual effect that you get from 50 miles up (nearly 80 km). So have fun," said deGrasse.
However, he said he was "delighted that this is a new tourist attraction." "I have no problem or doubt with celebrating this fact. It should have happened decades ago, it didn't take 60 years for a private company to end up doing what Nasa did in 1961," he added.
DeGrasse Tyson also said Elon Musk's space project and his aerospace company has more merit. "The concept of SpaceX is 'we want to send people to places', it is an effort to push that limit, that frontier of exploring space," he said.
Seventy-one-year-old Richard Branson went into space aboard his rocket ship on July 11 along with five crewmates beating out his rival Jeff Bezos. They reached an altitude of 53.5 miles (86 kilometres) over the New Mexico desert and then glided back to a runway landing. Branson became the first person to travel in his own spaceship, beating Jeff Bezos by nine days.