Virgin Galactic to Edge of Space
After launching to space aboard Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo spaceplane, the company’s founder Richard Branson and a crew safely in New Mexico on Sunday. The mission, dubbed Unity 22, was the vehicle’s fourth test voyage to space and the first for Branson, a 70-year-old daredevil entrepreneur and british billionaire who has been waiting for his first trip to the edge of space for more than a decade.
Launch of Space Ship
VSS Unity, a SpaceShipTwo plane, lifted off from the belly of Virgin Galactic’s twin-fuselage WhiteKnight plane at 10:40 a.m. ET. 50 minutes after takeoff, Unity fell from the middle of the carrier craft at an altitude of nearly 45,000 feet. VSS Unity ignited its single rocket engine moments later, blasting to the edge of space and reaching a height of 53.5 miles above the ground. Before drifting back to Earth in New Mexico at Spaceport America, Virgin Galactic’s budding space tourism enterprise, the crew enjoyed a few moments of weightlessness.
As the VSS Unity reached microgravity, Branson congratulated his fellow crew members with handshakes, later calling the voyage “an adventure of a lifetime,” as heard over the plane’s shaky communications line to ground control. Branson exited VSS Unity and skipped toward a swarm of photographers, children, and relatives immediately outside Spaceport America after touching down. In a post-flight ceremony, he could not contain his joy as he began, “I was upside down a few minutes ago.”
“I guess like most kids, I dreamed about this moment as a kid,” Branson added, “but nothing could prepare you for the vista of Earth from space.” Then, in full salesman mode, he dubbed Virgin Galactic “the spaceline for Earth” and followed through on a promise to reveal something “extremely spectacular” following his flight: He announced a partnership with fundraising startup Omaze to give away two seats on VSS Unity as well as a personal tour of Spaceport America — “with my Willy Wonka hat on,” he joked. “And in the factory, I promise there will be plenty of chocolate,” he continued.
Apart from a probable antenna issue that caused a live video feed from inside the cabin to malfunction during important stages of the voyage, Virgin Galactic president Mike Moses told reporters that “the ship looked perfect” at touchdown.
Richard Branson Before Launch
Branson rode his bike to the spaceport before sunrise, flanked by two white Range Rovers, and said he was “feeling good, feeling thrilled, feeling ready” for his voyage to space. He said he began the day with a visit from Elon Musk, who was in New Mexico to witness the mission firsthand. Two pilots, Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci, were onboard SpaceShipTwo with Branson, as well as three additional cabin crew members: Chief Astronaut Instructor Beth Moses, Lead Operations Engineer Colin Bennett, and Vice President of Government Affairs and Research Operations Sirisha Bandla. The Virgin Galactic cabin was put to the test by the crew.
Branson and the crew were presented with gold-colored pins by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield to commemorate their new position as commercial astronauts with Virgin Galactic, having gone above the 50-mile-line declared to be space by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Rise of Space Tourism
The mood at Spaceport America on Sunday was full of marketing and theatrics as Branson’s voyage was a wonderful opportunity to lure potential clients for Virgin Galactic’s space tourism enterprise. The spaceport, which was located next to the runway where VMS Eve took off, resembled a music festival for those who attended. Guests watched the mission on a large screen set up in the centre of a stage made up just outside Spaceport America’s main structure. The mission’s livestream was hosted by Stephen Colbert, and singer-songwriter Khalid performed a new song on stage. After landing, the VSS Unity was towed back to Spaceport America by a fleet of Range Rovers.
In the weeks running up to Unity 22, there was a lot of competition in the space business. In a caustic tweet two days before Branson’s journey, Blue Origin claimed that Branson isn’t truly reaching space because SpaceShipTwo flies a few miles beyond the recognised space barrier by an international sports organisation. On Saturday, Jeff Bezos expressed his support for Branson in an Instagram post, wishing him well. Musk has been pleasant throughout, staying out of the public eye and meeting with Branson in New Mexico. On the eve of his trip, Branson tweeted to Musk, “Thanks for being so usually supportive and such a terrific friend.”
Virgin Galactic offering Space travel
The corporation is now offering you the opportunity to travel in the company’s spaceplane as well. Following the flight on Sunday, Branson announced that Virgin Galactic has teamed up with crowdfunding platform Omaze to launch a sweepstakes that will send the winner and a friend to space.
The winner will fly aboard the VSS Unity spaceplane, the same plane on which Branson flew. Branson will also give you a tour of Spaceport America in New Mexico, “with my Willa Wonka hat on,” he stated. He quipped, “And I promise tonnes of chocolate in the factory.”
Sweepstakes Offering Trips
The competition also serves as a fundraiser for the nonprofit Space for Humanity, and the more money you donate, the more entries you’ll receive (though the fine print says that the maximum amount of entries for one person is 6,000). If you choose, you can submit an entry without giving.
According to the website, the sweepstakes ends on September 1st at 2:59 a.m. ET, and the winner will be announced “around” September 29th. To enter, you must be 18 years old or older, and the winner and their guest must show proof of COVID-19 vaccination to be eligible to win the prizes. Early in 2022, the “experience” is expected to take place.
Elon Musk Books his Trip
When both Elon Musk and Richard Branson have space tourism ideas, you’d think they’d harbour grudges against one other, but that’s not the case; in fact, they’re surprisingly buddy-buddy. Musk purchased a ticket onboard Virgin Galactic’s air-launched rockets and has put down a $10,000 deposit, according to a statement released by the business to the Wall Street Journal. It’s unclear where SpaceX founder Elon Musk will be in line, but it’s safe to say his ride will be noticed.