Richard Branson blasts into space in his Virgin Galactic

NEW DELHI: British billionaire and founder of the Virgin Group, 71 years old Richard Branson today beat rival Jeff Bezos to reach the edge of space Virgin Galactic's passenger rocket plane VSS Unity, giving space tourism an official kickstart. 

In a live stream of the event, the ship carrying a crew of four including Branson and Indian-American Sirisha Bandla took off from a spaceport in New Mexico at 8:40 am local time, and reached a peak altitude of around 53 miles (85 kilometres) above the United States' space boundary, briefly exposing the crew to zero gravity of about four minutes.

The whole trip lasted for about an hour and the ship safely re-entered the atmosphere, and landed at around 9:40 am local time. 

The space ship was propelled by Unity's mother ship VMS Eve which carried VSS Unity in a parasite configuration. Since its initial flight on12 December 2008, it has already conducted more than 20 test flights, three of which have reached the edge of space. 

The other passengers in the 1st fully crewed flight of VSS Unity suborbital flight which has helped Virgin Galactic to demonstrate that space tourism is safe, included chief pilot David Mackay, co-pilot Michael Masucci, passengers Colin Bennett and Beth Moses. On return to base, a jubilant Branson said, "The whole thing, it was just magical." 

On 7 June 2021, Jeff Bezos of Amazon had announced that he planned to be on the first crewed flight of his company Blue Origin, which meant being aboard the first crewed flight to space.


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