From the day Russian Yuri Gagarin became the first man to travel in space, in April 1961, until today, only 570 people have gone beyond the mythical Kárman line, 100 km above sea level. To reach this altitude, the trajectory travels through a parabola that leads the body to ‘lose’ weight and be able to float in the air. But that number is about to increase and is expected to multiply in the coming decades. From the astronauts who will star in upcoming missions to the International Space Station and again on the Moon to scientists who will have more opportunities to do suborbital research — to the men and women with enough millions to buy a ticket to space.
If all goes well and weather conditions allow, Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic (VG), will be another name to join the list starting this Sunday, when the plane his company has been developing takes off and arrives at about 80 kilometers of altitude (recognized in the US as the boundary between the Earth’s atmosphere and outer space). At that point, the four crew — Branson, VG astronaut 001, and three other members of his team — will be able to unbuckle their seat belts, float in the cabin, look out the 17 windows of the craft and get a view of the planet that few have had until now. The other two pilots will bring the mother plane, on which the smaller rocket plane is suspended, back to the ground.
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