Billionaire Richard Branson made his first space flight on Sunday in his Virgin Galactic rocket plane, which landed safely in New Mexico after this fully crewed baptism of fire.
The Briton hailed “a once in a lifetime experience”.
“We are here to make space more accessible,” he said after landing. “Welcome to the dawn of a new space age”.
“I dreamed of it since I was a child, nothing prepares you for what we see from space,” he added to the cheers of hundreds of people.
Burning politeness to Amazon boss Jeff Bezos, whose space flight is scheduled for July 20, Richard Branson, who led the experiment with five members of Virgin Galactic Holding Inc, intends to be the forerunner of space tourism.
The company he founded in 2004 plans to launch commercial operations in 2022.
Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity shuttle, with two pilots and four passengers including Richard Branson, took off from New Mexico under a carrier aircraft.
After an altitude progression of about fifty minutes, he dropped Virgin Galactic which then began its ascent towards the frontier of space, as defined in the United States: above 80 kilometers of altitude.
After a weightless interlude with the engine off, the white vessel began its descent in gliding flight and finally landed at Spaceport America at 4:40 p.m. GMT.
“Seventeen years of effort and sometimes great difficulty, but we have recovered,” said Richard Branson upon his return to Earth.
Sunday’s flight, the first fully crewed, was SpaceShipTwo’s 22nd test and its fourth manned mission beyond Earth’s atmosphere.
A prototype of the Virgin Galactic aircraft crashed during a test flight over the Mojave Desert in California in 2014, killing one pilot and seriously injuring another.
Richard Branson thus doubles Jeff Bezos and his astrotourism company Blue Origin in the “space race of the billionaires”. Jeff Bezos scheduled a flight aboard his own suborbital rocket, the New Shepard.
With a week of his 71st birthday, the billionaire, however, insisted that he was engaged with the boss of Amazon in a friendly rivalry.
Handsome player Jeff Bezos complimented Branson on Instagram. “Congratulations on the flight. I can’t wait to join the club!” He wrote.
The demand for space flights is already expected to be strong, with several hundred future wealthy astronauts who have already made reservations, at a price of around $ 250,000 per ticket (approximately € 211,000).
Swiss investment bank UBS has estimated the potential value of the space tourism market at $ 3 billion per year by 2030, but proving rocket safety for the general public remains essential.
A third actor, billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX, plans to send its first fully civilian crew into orbit in September – without the leader – after having already made numerous launches to the international space station for NASA.
Richard Branson’s official role is “to assess the experience of private astronauts” and his observations will be used to “improve the journey of all future astronaut customers,” according to Virgin press documents.
Source: Challenges en temps réel : accueil by www.challenges.fr.
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