After 16 years of research and test flights, today’s one, the 22nd, is the first with a complete six-member crew. It consists of pilots Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci and four “mission specialists”, including Branson. Of the previous 21 test flights, three took place with people on board.
The VSS Unity shuttle itself brought a VMS Eve aircraft to a height of about 15 kilometers. Then the shuttle detached, started its own engines, and ascended a steep climb to the limit of 90 kilometers above the earth’s surface. In weightlessness, the crew spent about six minutes. Then the shuttle set out on its way back, the whole flight lasted about 90 minutes.
Today’s flight is considered a milestone in competition in nascent lucrative space tourism. On July 20, Branson’s main competitor, Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos, planned his space flight in the New Shepard.
“Seventeen years of hard work to get this far,” Branson said as he congratulated his team on the successful completion of the flight. Branson became the first man to fly in his own spaceship and the second man in his seventies to go into space. The first was astronaut John Glenn in 1998, at the age of 77.
Hundreds of spectators at the base cheered after landing, Branson hurried to his family, hugged his wife and children, and took three grandchildren in his arms. “It’s a life experience,” the entrepreneur praised after returning to Spaceport America. “I’ve been dreaming about this since childhood, but nothing could prepare me for looking at Earth from space,” said the eccentric billionaire. “We are at the forefront of a new space era,” Branson added.
“It was an amazing achievement,” said Chris Hadfield, a former Canadian astronaut. “I am so pleased with where this open door will lead now. It’s a big moment, “said the former commander of the International Space Station (ISS).
Virgin Galactic has previously announced that it expects to launch its space commercial services next year. However, this should be preceded by two more test flights. Today’s flight, according to the AP agency, is intended to strengthen confidence in space tourism offered by Virgin Galactic. However, the demand is strong, several hundred rich people have booked space flights. One ticket costs around $ 250,000 (over 5.4 million crowns).
Bezos is getting ready for his flight in nine days. He wished Branson a happy flight, but also expressed confidence that his Blue Origin spaceflight would be more rewarding. Blue Origin is going to send tourists to a height of 100 kilometers, which is an internationally recognized border of space. However, the US NASA, the Air Force and also the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recognize the limit of 80 kilometers.
One of Branson’s great rivals in the space tourism sector is also SpaceX boss Elon Musk, who, according to the AP, was among the spectators of the historic flight in New Mexico, and via Twitter he also wished Branson a happy flight.
Source: E15.cz by www.e15.cz.
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