In a historic moment, Virgin Galactic’s first-ever manned mission to space has been successfully completed. Virgin Galactic founder Sir. Richard Branson went into space in Virgin Galactic’s spacecraft VSS Unity rocket plane, aka SpaceShipTwo Unity 22, on Sunday.
Branson called it an “experience of a lifetime” – and hoping that it could lead to a revolution in the lucrative space tourism industry.
“I was once a child with a dream looking up to the stars. Now I’m an adult in a spaceship looking down to our beautiful Earth. To the next generation of dreamers: if we can do this, just imagine what you can do.”
The Virgin Galactic YouTube channel hosted a recording of the live stream. There were two pilots in the crew, i.e., David Mackay and Michael Masucci. The Virgin Galactic flight was also joined by three employees who evaluated how the experience would be for future paying guests. Indian-origin Sirisha Bandla is vice president of government affairs and research operations at Virgin Galactic; Beth Moses is the chief astronaut instructor; while Colin Bennett is the lead operations engineer.
As part of Ms. Bandla’s flight on Sunday, she was to conduct an experiment. This experiment will study how plants respond to gravity swings and other changes during flight, which could help produce food in future long-duration space missions.
The plane took off the following morning at 10:40 a.m. after Mr. Branson arrived at the airport in a car. Around 11:25 a.m. The spaceplane separated from the carrier ship. Mr. Branson and the crew were lifted into space by the rocket’s engine after about 60 seconds. The plane landed on the spaceport’s runway safely minutes after starting its return to Earth. Approximately an hour later, Mr. Branson was on stage with his crewmates.
Virgin Galactic was founded in 2004 by Richard Branson to provide adventurous tourists with space adventure flights. Mr. Branson is known for his interest in high-flying pursuits such as hot-air ballooning and skydiving. A test flight of the V.S.S. Enterprise, the company’s first space plane, ended in a crash in 2014. It was the co-pilot’s mistake to move the lever too early during the flight, causing the tail booms to rotate when they need to remain rigid.
The company originally charged $200,000 for a seat on one of its spaceships. A price increase of $250K was made later by the company. In 2014, it went out of business after crashing during a test flight. However, Virgin Galactic’s chief executive, Michael Colglazier, said that the company’s price would likely rise again when sales resume later this year.
Many Americans cannot afford to make such trips due to the high costs involved. As more people get the chance to go to space, Virgin Galactic and other space flight companies hope to reduce the cost of a ticket. Despite this, the company estimated that over 600 people from approximately 60 countries had registered for its flights. Upon completion of two more test flights, SpaceShipTwo may begin charging customers within the next year. In addition to the agreement with the Italian Air Force, the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, has purchased seats on future flights for scientific research. Experiments can be flown on suborbital flights much more quickly and cheaper than they can be flown on the International Space Station.
On his big day, before leaving for the first-ever human spaceflight, Richard Branson also spent a couple of hours with SpaceX CEO, another space enthusiast Elon Musk.
Another billionaire is also scheduled to make a spaceflight on July 20. Amazon former CEO Jeff Bezos first announced that he would be traveling to space with his brother. Bezos was supposed to be the first person ever to travel to space as a passenger. However, Branson decided to make it happen before Bezos. Former Amazon CEO posted a wish on his Instagram account for a successful and safe flight for Mr. Branson and Virgin Galactic on Friday. “Best of luck!” he added.
If you missed the historical event, watch the live stream below: