Billionaire Branson now an astronaut, completes trip to edge of space
Branson while speaking to ground control at Spaceport America in New Mexico called it an 'experience of a lifetime.'
British billionaire Richard Branson on Sunday completed his trip to the edge of space aboard the VSS Unity spaceship and returned safely to Earth. Branson and his team, consisting of 5 other members, experienced weightlessness and saw a beautiful view of the Earth as they reached 85 kilometers beyond the boundary of space.
Branson said nothing prepares one for the view from space. He thanked his fellow astronauts and said it was a 'delightful experience to fly with them'. He also thanked his pilots at well. Sirisha Bandla, Beth Moses, Colin Bennett and pilots Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci accompanied Branson.
"I have dreamt of this moment since I was a kid but honestly nothing could prepare you for the view from space. It was magical," Branson said while addressing people at Spaceport America.
Branson while speaking to ground control at Spaceport America in New Mexico called it an 'experience of a lifetime.' The entire trip which was broadcast on YouTube and other social media handles of Virgin Atlantic showed an excited Branson congratulating his fellow 'astronauts' while returning to make touchdown.
Catch LIVE updates here:
- Branson and his team have reached the edge of space
- VSS Unity returns safely to planet Earth. Makes touchdown at runway at a base in New Mexico
- "I hope everyone gets to experience this. This is an experience of a lifetime," Branson said after VSS Unity began its journey towards Earth.
- Famous US primetime news anchor Stephen Colbert of the The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to host VSS Unity launch
- VMS Eve took off with VSS Unity made a horizontal take-off from Space Port, New Mexico at 8:10 pm (Indian Standard Time), according to news agency AFP.
- VMS Eve about to reach designated launch point, reaches altitude of 40,000 feet
- VMS Eve reaches above 46,000 feet
Indian member in the crew
The British billionaire Branson will travel with Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci, who will control the spacecraft’s ignition and shut-off. They will also ‘activate the vehicle's "feathered" tail maneuver’ for the spacecraft’s re-entry into the Earth, according to Reuters.
Beth Moses, the company's chief astronaut instructor, Colin Bennett, Virgin Galactic's lead operations engineer and research operations and government affairs vice president Sirisha Bandla will accompany Branson aboard VSS Unity.
In what is being seen as a beginning step towards a new era of space tourism, Branson with six other employees of Virgin Galactic Holding Inc will take off from a base in New Mexico aboard a Virgin Galactic vessel which will soar 80 km above New Mexico. The launch of the VSS Unity rocket plane will mark Virgin Galactic Holding Inc's 22nd test flight of its SpaceShipTwo system. This is also its fourth mission with a crew beyond Earth's atmosphere.
The VSS Unity will carry two pilots and four ‘mission specialists’ - one of whom is Richard Branson. The delay in the launch, which is set to take off from New Mexico's state-owned Spaceport of America, located near the New Mexico town of Truth or Consequences, was pushed back owing to the overnight thunderstorms. Virgin Galactic did not roll out its rocket plane due to issues which arose due to the storms, the company told news agency Reuters.
VSS Unity which is attached to specially designed twin-fuselage carrier jet VMS Eve (named after the billionaire’s late mother) will detach at an altitude of 50,000 feet. Following this, Unity’s rocket engine will power to send the spaceplane into space some 55 miles high where the crew is supposed to experience 4 minutes of microgravity. The craft will shift into re-entry mode after nearing the peak of its climb and glide back into a runway landing at the spaceport.
The entire flight time, from takeoff to landing, will take approximately 90 minutes.
Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk will also be present at Spaceport America for the test flight.
Virgin Atlantic via its official Twitter handle said that live streaming of the event will be available for viewers at http://www.virgingalactic.com/ and the event will also be simultaneously broadcast on Virgin Galactic Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook channels.