British billionaire, Richard Branson has fulfilled his childhood dream and lifetime’s ambition after he flew to the edge of space on Sunday.
Branson, who founded the Virgin Group that today has interests in everything from commercial aviation to fitness centers, is known for his appetite for adventure and has set world records in hot air ballooning and boating.
“As a child, I wanted to go to space,” the 70-year-old wrote a few days ahead of his trip which he hopes will lift the nascent space tourism industry off the ground.
The billionaire’s massive carrier plane made a horizontal take-off from Spaceport, New Mexico at around 8:40 am Mountain Time (1440 GMT) and will ascend for around an hour to an altitude of 50,000 feet (15 kilometers).
The spaceplane is carrying two pilots and four passengers, including Richard Branson, will drop a rocket-powered spaceplane called VSS Unity, which will ignite its engine and ascend at Mach 3 beyond 50 miles (80 kilometers) of altitude, which marks the boundary of space according to the United States.
Once the rocket engine is cut off, passengers can unbuckle and experience a few minutes of weightlessness, while admiring the curvature of Earth from the ship’s 17 windows.
After peaking at around 55 miles of altitude, the ship will re-enter the atmosphere and glide back to the runway through sunny skies.
“It’s a beautiful day to go to space,” Branson wrote in a tweet earlier where he posted a video of himself biking to the base and meeting with his crewmates, all Virgin employees.
He also posted a picture of himself standing in a kitchen with SpaceX boss Elon Musk, who’d come to show his support.
Richard Branson Takes Off For Space
“Congratulations to all our wonderful team at Virgin Galactic for 17 years of hard, hard work to get us this far,” he said during a live feed after the VSS Unity spaceship glided back to Spaceport America in New Mexico.
In a tweet post, Branson said: “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. Welcome to the dawn of a new space age.”
During a news conference following the historic flight on Sunday, the billionaire said “What a day. What a day. What a day.
“I think like most kids I have dreamt of this moment since I was a kid and honestly nothing can prepare you for the view of Earth from space.”
He said he was honoured to “test the customer experience” and declared, “Welcome to the dawn of a new space age.”
“It’s just magical. I’m just taking it all in. It’s just unreal,” said Branson, who popped a bottle of champagne after he and his crew were presented their Virgin Galactic astronaut wings.