The British billionaire Richard Branson flew into space with his spaceship before Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and landed safely back on earth. According to Branson’s company Virgin Galactic, the “VSS Unity” rose to an altitude of around 86 kilometers after taking off in the US state of New Mexico on Sunday.
“I was once a child with a dream that looked up at the stars. Now I’m an adult in a spaceship looking at our beautiful earth,” said Branson during the little more than three minutes of weightlessness. Then the spaceship started to re-enter the earth’s atmosphere and finally landed again at the commercial spaceport Spaceport America.
Promotion of space tourism
The 70-year-old, known as an adventurer and showman, set out on Sunday with two astronauts and three astronauts. The spaceship was first brought under a mother plane to an altitude of about 14 kilometers and then set down. Then the engine ignited and accelerated the spacecraft during a steep ascent, according to the information to more than three times the speed of sound, which corresponds to more than 3700 kilometers per hour. TV footage showed the sky turning from blue to black as Branson and his crew left the atmosphere.
The goal of Branson – and also of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Tesla boss Elon Musk – is to get into the space tourism business. But Branson’s All-Trip is also a successful PR coup against his competitor Bezos: The richest man in the world had advertised his flight into space on July 20 at great expense in the past few weeks – then Branson came and announced that he was nine Will fly days earlier. The live coverage of the flight by Virgin Galactic gave the impression of a promotional event. Bezos congratulated Branson on Instagram adding, “Can’t wait to join the club.”
Space or just before it
However, it is disputed among experts whether Branson was actually in space: The International Aviation Association (FAI) and many other experts see 100 kilometers above the earth as the limit to space, but there are no binding international regulations. This is how soldiers of the US Air Force received the designation astronaut even though they had only flown to an altitude of 50 miles (approx. 80 kilometers). For comparison: the international space station ISS is about 400 kilometers above the earth’s surface.
The 18-meter-long “VSS Unity” spaceplane offers space for two pilots and six passengers, and from 2022 it is expected to take tourists into space. The extremely rich adventurer is by no means the first tourist in weightlessness, but he wants to make commercial space flights socially acceptable with Virgin Galactic – just like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk. Branson posed with the Tesla boss on a Twitter photo on Sunday morning and wrote: “We have a great day ahead of us. A great way to start the morning with a friend. I feel good, excited, ready.”
Win two seats in VSS Unity
Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos’ space company, announced a manned flight with the New Shepard rocket back in May. The 57-year-old wants to take his brother and an 82-year-old former US pilot on their maiden flight into space on July 20. Another seat was auctioned a few weeks ago for 28 million US dollars to a previously unknown person.
After the successful landing, Branson also announced a raffle, in which the winner and an accompanying person can take a flight with the “VSS Unity” to the edge of space in early 2022. In addition, Branson wants to personally show the guests his Spaceport Amaerica. The The competition is held together with the Omaze donation platform and will run until September 1, 2021. The winner is to be announced four weeks later.