'More Magical Than I Imagined': Richard Branson on Trip to Space
Billionaire Branson returned to the New Mexico spaceport after venturing into space on his Virgin Galactic vessel.
Billionaire Richard Branson, on Sunday, 11 July, returned to Spaceport America in New Mexico after successfully venturing into space on his Virgin Galactic vessel.
“The whole thing... it was just magical,” the 71-year-old business magnate said during a live feed from the spacecraft as it made its way back to the Earth, news agency AP reported.
The galactic vessel, which reached a height of 86 km over the New Mexico desert, enabled the passengers to view the curvature of the Earth and experience a few minutes of weightlessness.
Branson described the journey as the "experience of a lifetime," news agency AFP reported.
"I dreamt about this moment since I was a child, but going to space was more magical than I ever imagined," he tweeted.
Branson has become the first person to travel to the edge of space in his own spaceship, beating Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, who is slated to undertake a journey to space just a few days later, on 20 July.
According to AFP, Branson hopes that this voyage of his will help uplift the space tourism industry.
"It's a beautiful day to go to space," the billionaire had tweeted earlier in the day.
Branson’s Virgin Galactic vessel is reported to be a massive carrier plane.
According to AFP, the plane made a horizontal take-off from Spaceport, New Mexico at around 8:40 am Mountain Time, and ascended for around an hour to an altitude of 50,000 feet (15 kilometers).
Following this, as per AFP, the mothership dropped a rocket-powered spaceplane VSS Unity, which ignited its engine and ascended at Mach 3 beyond 50 miles (more than 80 kilometers) of altitude, which, as per the United States, marks the boundary of space. The flight in the spaceplane lasted for about 15 minutes, as per an AP report.
After peaking at around 55 miles of altitude, the ship re-entered the atmosphere and glided back to the runway.
Apart from a few minor glitches in the transmission of the video from inside the vessel, the flight was a successful one, a top Virgin Galactic executive said, as per an AP report.
The vessel carried pilots and three passengers in addition to Branson.
International media reports suggest that Branson is aiming to “one-up” Amazon founder Jeff Bezos by winning the race to be the first tycoon to cross the final frontier in a ship built by a company he founded.
Branson's Virgin Galactic, kicking off its promotion of space tourism with the tycoon's flight, expects to begin regular commercial operations in 2022.
(With inputs from AP and AFP.)
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