Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson Blasts Off, Reaches Edge Of Space



The gang cheered and yelled because it touched down on the runway. Some spectators jumped into the air. Others embraced and shared hugs.

“That was a tremendous accomplishment,” former Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, a one-time commander of the Worldwide House Station, mentioned from the sidelines. “I’m simply so delighted at what this open door goes to result in now. It’s an excellent second.”

Virgin Galactic carried out three earlier check flights into house with crews of simply two or three.

The flamboyant, London-born founding father of Virgin Atlantic Airways wasn’t imagined to fly till later this summer time. However he assigned himself to an earlier flight after Bezos introduced plans to journey his personal rocket into house from Texas on July 20, the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon touchdown.

Branson, who has kite-surfed the English Channel and tried to circle the world in a hot-air balloon, denied he was attempting to beat Bezos.

Earlier than climbing aboard, Branson signed the astronaut log e-book and wisecracked: “The title’s Branson. Sir Richard Branson. Astronaut Double-oh one. License to thrill.”

One in all Branson’s chief rivals within the space-tourism race among the many world’s richest males, SpaceX’s Elon Musk, arrived in New Mexico to witness the flight, wishing Branson through Twitter, “Godspeed!”

Bezos likewise despatched his needs for a protected and profitable flight, although he additionally took to Twitter to enumerate the methods wherein be believes his firm’s rides shall be higher.

Bezos’ Blue Origin firm intends to ship vacationers previous the so-called Karman line 62 miles (100 kilometers) above Earth, which is is acknowledged by worldwide aviation and aerospace federations as the brink of house.

However NASA, the Air Power, the Federal Aviation Administration and a few astrophysicists contemplate the boundary between the environment and house to start 50 miles (80 kilometers) up.

The dangers to Branson and his crew have been underscored in 2007, when a rocket motor check in California’s Mojave Desert left three staff useless, and in 2014, when a Virgin Galactic rocket airplane broke aside throughout a check flight, killing one pilot and significantly injuring the opposite.

Ever the showman, Branson insisted on a worldwide livestream of the Sunday morning flight and invited celebrities and former house station astronauts to the corporate’s Spaceport America base in New Mexico.

R&B singer Khalid carried out his new single “New Regular” — a nod to the dawning of house tourism — whereas CBS “Late Present” host Stephen Colbert served because the occasion’s grasp of ceremonies.


Virgin Galactic already has greater than 600 reservations from would-be house vacationers, with tickets initially costing $250,000 apiece. Blue Origin is ready for Bezos’ flight earlier than saying its ticket costs.

Kerianne Flynn, who signed up in 2011 to fly with Virgin Galactic, had butterflies forward of the launch Sunday.

“I feel there’s going to be nothing like going up there and searching again down on the Earth, which is what I feel I’m most enthusiastic about,” she mentioned. She added: “Hopefully the following generations will be capable of discover what’s up there,” she mentioned.

Musk’s SpaceX, which is already launching astronauts to the Worldwide House Station for NASA and is constructing moon and Mars ships, can also be competing for house tourism {dollars}. However its capsules will do greater than make transient, up-and-down forays; they are going to go into orbit across the Earth, with seats costing properly into the tens of millions. Its first personal flight is ready for September.

Musk himself has not dedicated to going into house anytime quickly.

“It’s a complete new horizon on the market, new alternatives, new locations,” mentioned former NASA astronaut Chris Ferguson, who commanded the final shuttle flight 10 years in the past. He now works for Boeing, which is test-flying its personal house capsule.

“That is actually type of like the arrival of business air journey, solely 100 years later,” Ferguson added. “There’s quite a bit ready within the wings.”


The Related Press Well being and Science Division receives help from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Division of Science Schooling. The AP is solely answerable for all content material.


Dunn reported from Cape Canaveral, Fla.


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