Virgin Galactic founder and billionaire Richard Branson created history on Sunday by flying to the edge of space aboard the Virgin Galactic spaceplane. This is a big achievement for both Branson as well as Virgin. While this was the British billionaire’s first trip to space, it was also the first time when his company has flown a full crew cabin. The carrier aircraft VMS Eve along with the SpaceShipTwo Unity rocket took off at around 8.40 am. The aircraft was handled by former NASA research pilot Kelly Latimer and former NASA astronaut CJ Sturckow. Branson was joined by three employees of the company – Beth Moses, Colin Bennett, and Sirisha Bandla. The pilots at the control of Unity were Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci.
The Unity rocket reached speeds of Mach 3 within minutes of separating from the aircraft and reached a peak altitude of 86 km. The height reached was enough to see the curvature of the Earth. For those who are unaware, the aircraft has been named VMS Eve after Branson’s mother Eve. His mother died of Covid-19 complications in January this year. Describing it as the ‘experience of a lifetime,’ Branson told journalists that the ‘whole thing was just magical.’ The 70-year-old Virgin Galactic founder said that his mother has been a major source of inspiration behind this journey.
Branson tapped a message using a camera onboard the spaceplane. The message addressed to all the kids said – “I was once a child and had dreams. Now I am an adult in a spaceship. If we can do this, just imagine what all can be done by your generation.” At the height of 50 miles, the vehicle remained weightless for a few minutes. This allowed the passengers to enjoy the views of the space. SpaceShipTwo was then glided back to a runway landing. Branson has now announced that it would offer two seats in the upcoming flight through an Omaze contest. The contest also encourages donations for the nonprofit Space for Humanity.