Breaking News
Get Actionable Insights with InvestingPro+: Start 7 Day FREE Trial Register here
Investing Pro 0
Ad-Free Version. Upgrade your Investing.com experience. Save up to 40% More details

Billionaire Branson soars to space aboard Virgin Galactic flight

WorldJul 12, 2021 05:27AM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This article has already been saved in your Saved Items
 
11/11 © Reuters. Virgin Galactic's passenger rocket plane VSS Unity, carrying billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson and his crew, descends after reaching the edge of space above Spaceport America near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, U.S., July 11, 2021. REUTERS/Joe 2/11

By Steve Gorman

TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES, N.M. (Reuters) -British billionaire Richard Branson on Sunday soared more than 50 miles above the New Mexico desert aboard his Virgin Galactic rocket plane and safely returned in the vehicle's first fully crewed test flight to space, a symbolic milestone for a venture he started 17 years ago.

Branson, one of six Virgin Galactic Holding Inc employees strapped in for the ride, touted the mission as a precursor to a new era of space tourism, with the company he founded in 2004 poised to begin commercial operations next year.

"We’re here to make space more accessible to all," an exuberant Branson, 70, said shortly after embracing his grandchildren following the flight. "Welcome to the dawn of a new space age."

The success of the flight also gave the flamboyant entrepreneur bragging rights in a highly publicized rivalry with fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos, the Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) online retail mogul who had hoped to fly into space first aboard his own space company's rocket.

"Congratulations on the flight," Bezos said on Instagram. "Can’t wait to join the club!"

Space industry executives, future customers and other well-wishers were on hand for a festive gathering to witness the launch, which was livestreamed in a presentation hosted by late-night television comedian Stephen Colbert. Joining the reception was another billionaire space industry pioneer, Elon Musk, who is also founder of electric carmaker Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) Inc.

Grammy-nominated R&B singer Khalid performed his forthcoming single "New Normal" after the flight.

The gleaming white spaceplane was carried aloft attached to the underside of the dual-fuselage jet VMS Eve (named for Branson's late mother) from Spaceport America, a state-owned facility near the aptly named town of Truth or Consequences. Virgin Galactic leases a large section of the facility.

Reaching its high-altitude launch point at about 46,000 feet (14,020 m), the VSS Unity passenger rocket plane was released from the mothership and fell away as the crew ignited its rocket, sending it streaking straight upward at supersonic speed to the blackness of space some 53 miles (86 km) high.

The spaceplane's contrail was clearly visible from the ground as it soared through the upper atmosphere, to the cheers of the crowd below.

At the apex of the climb with the rocket shut down, the crew then experienced a few minutes of microgravity, before the spaceplane shifted into re-entry mode, and began a gliding descent to a runway back at the spaceport. The entire flight lasted about an hour.

"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," Branson said in a video from space.

Back at a celebration with supporters from a stage outside Virgin Galactic's Gateway to Space complex at the spaceport, he and crewmates doused one another with champagne.

Retired Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield pinned Virgin-produced astronaut wings onto the blue flight suits worn by Branson and his team. Official wing pins from the Federal Aviation Administration will be presented later, a company spokesman said.

HIGH-COST TICKETS

Virgin Galactic has said it plans at least two further test flights of the spaceplane in the months ahead before beginning regular commercial operation in 2022. One of those flights will carry four Italian astronauts-in-training, according to company CEO Michael Colglazier.

He said 600 wealthy would-be citizen astronauts have also booked reservations, priced at about $250,000 per ticket for the exhilaration of supersonic flight, weightlessness and the spectacle of spaceflight.

Branson has said he aims ultimately to lower the price to about $40,000 per seat as the company ramps up service, achieving greater economies of scale. Colglazier said he envisions eventually building a large enough fleet to accommodate roughly 400 flights annually at the spaceport.

The Swiss-based investment bank UBS has estimated the potential value of the space tourism market reaching $3 billion annually by 2030.

Proving rocket travel safe for the public is key.

An earlier prototype of the Virgin Galactic rocket plane crashed during a test flight over California's Mojave Desert in 2014, killing one pilot and seriously injuring another.

SPACE RACE

Branson's participation in Sunday's flight, announced just over a week ago, typified his persona as the daredevil executive whose various Virgin brands - from airlines to music companies - have long been associated with his ocean-crossing exploits in sailboats and hot-air balloons.

His ride-along also upstaged rival astro-tourism venture Blue Origin and its founder, Bezos, in what has been popularized as the "billionaire space race." Bezos has been planning to fly aboard his own suborbital rocketship, the New Shepard, later this month.

Branson has insisted he and Bezos are friendly rivals and were not racing to beat one another into space.

"We wish Jeff the absolute best and that he will get up and enjoy his flight," Branson said at a post-flight news conference.

Blue Origin, however, has disparaged Virgin Galactic as falling short of a true spaceflight experience, saying that unlike Unity, Bezos's New Shepard tops the 62-mile-high-mark (100 km), called the Kármán line, set by an international aeronautics body as defining the boundary between Earth's atmosphere and space.

"New Shepard was designed to fly above the Kármán line so none of our astronauts have an asterisk next to their name," Blue Origin said in a series of Twitter posts on Friday.

However, U.S. space agency NASA and the U.S. Air Force both define an astronaut as anyone who has flown higher than 50 miles (80 km).

A third player in the space tourism sector, Musk's SpaceX, plans to send its first all-civilian crew (without Musk) into orbit in September, after having already launched numerous cargo payloads and astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA.

A Virgin Galactic spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal that Musk had bought a ticket for his own space ride. The newspaper said that it was not clear how far up the waiting list Musk is for a seat.

Representatives for Musk could not be immediately reached. Virgin Galactic and Tesla did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The spaceplane's two pilots were Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci. The three other mission specialists were Beth Moses, the company's chief astronaut instructor; Virgin Galactic's lead operations engineer Colin Bennett; and Sirisha Bandla, a research operations and government affairs vice president.

All recounted afterward being mesmerized by the view through Unity's windows. Mackay described the immense blackness of space against the brightness of Earth's surface, "separated by the beautiful blue atmosphere, which is very complex and very thin."

"Cameras don’t do it justice," he told reporters. "You have to see it with your own eyes."

Billionaire Branson soars to space aboard Virgin Galactic flight
 

Related Articles

Add a Comment

Comment Guidelines

We encourage you to use comments to engage with other users, share your perspective and ask questions of authors and each other. However, in order to maintain the high level of discourse we’ve all come to value and expect, please keep the following criteria in mind:  

  •            Enrich the conversation, don’t trash it.

  •           Stay focused and on track. Only post material that’s relevant to the topic being discussed. 

  •           Be respectful. Even negative opinions can be framed positively and diplomatically. Avoid profanity, slander or personal attacks directed at an author or another user. Racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination will not be tolerated.

  • Use standard writing style. Include punctuation and upper and lower cases. Comments that are written in all caps and contain excessive use of symbols will be removed.
  • NOTE: Spam and/or promotional messages and comments containing links will be removed. Phone numbers, email addresses, links to personal or business websites, Skype/Telegram/WhatsApp etc. addresses (including links to groups) will also be removed; self-promotional material or business-related solicitations or PR (ie, contact me for signals/advice etc.), and/or any other comment that contains personal contact specifcs or advertising will be removed as well. In addition, any of the above-mentioned violations may result in suspension of your account.
  • Doxxing. We do not allow any sharing of private or personal contact or other information about any individual or organization. This will result in immediate suspension of the commentor and his or her account.
  • Don’t monopolize the conversation. We appreciate passion and conviction, but we also strongly believe in giving everyone a chance to air their point of view. Therefore, in addition to civil interaction, we expect commenters to offer their opinions succinctly and thoughtfully, but not so repeatedly that others are annoyed or offended. If we receive complaints about individuals who take over a thread or forum, we reserve the right to ban them from the site, without recourse.
  • Only English comments will be allowed.

Perpetrators of spam or abuse will be deleted from the site and prohibited from future registration at Investing.com’s discretion.

Write your thoughts here
 
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
 
Post
Post also to:
 
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
1000
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Thanks for your comment. Please note that all comments are pending until approved by our moderators. It may therefore take some time before it appears on our website.
Comments (18)
peter neal
peter neal Jul 12, 2021 9:49AM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
People starve to death while we are flying around in space looking down at them.
Pratt Man
Pratt Man Jul 12, 2021 8:50AM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
fun and games until the thing blows up, and then it's all over.
William Smith
William Smith Jul 12, 2021 6:50AM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
50 miles? I've flown kites that high.
Todd Gray
Todd Gray Jul 11, 2021 10:55PM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
Where did that Siberian ice bridge the first American Indians crossed go? Well, it melted 10,000 years ago, because the Northern hemisphere of earth's been going through a warming cycle for about 100,000 years. Were kinda at the tail end of it now.And, why are the ice shelves snapping off in the Antarctic? Could it be there's so much new ice on top of them, they water can't keep them afloat any longer, and they simply break off and sink a little bit into the sea to achieve neutral buoyancy? Well, yea!
Martin Lewis
Martin Lewis Jul 11, 2021 9:17PM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
"OMG CLIMATE CHANGE AND POVERTY SO BAD!!!! Let's spend billions of dollars to burn tons of rocket fuel and fly suborbital for no reason other than to see the Earth from a window in a view that I could look at on my TV."
Bret Lafrance
Bret Lafrance Jul 11, 2021 8:40PM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
Complete waste of time and money.
palmer gossett
palmer gossett Jul 11, 2021 8:38PM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
Branson deserves to have gone first
YC Teng
YC Teng Jul 11, 2021 8:32PM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
Amazing feat by none other than Branson.Live your dreams and never, never, never, never, ever give up after you achieved them ❤️❤️
David David
David9 Jul 11, 2021 8:10PM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
There is just no way Jeff Bozos would let him be first....
Leon Kelly
Leon Kelly Jul 11, 2021 7:08PM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
buy the rumor, sell the news. Tank 5-7% monday
ZS Beck
ZS Beck Jul 11, 2021 7:08PM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
Agree
Raphael Fischer
Raphael Fischer Jul 11, 2021 5:49PM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
will they make more money with satellite's or humans?
Greg Hamilton
OptionsTrader Jul 11, 2021 5:44PM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
Of course he was 1st, He's Virgin
David David
David9 Jul 11, 2021 5:42PM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
I don't think this is real... how do we know this actually happen?
Mike Blade
Mike Blade Jul 11, 2021 5:42PM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
im with you brother. i just dont believe what i see on tv or any media until i actually see it with my own windows. Anything shown mainstream are all can be manipulated
David David
David9 Jul 11, 2021 5:42PM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
Yes, now I have to question everything in the news... unless they can proof and let me see with my own eyes, it's all propaganda to me... the western media has lost all credibility of what they print...
Michael Angelo
Michael Angelo Jul 11, 2021 5:32PM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
One small money w$aste for a billonaire and one big backward leap to humanity. Just w$ast$ing fuel.
Raphael Fischer
Raphael Fischer Jul 11, 2021 4:33PM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
they were just flying up and falling back down. in space travel they will need additional motors to navigate in space to be able to come back. I didn't got it. Is this now key to real space travel or os it just a fly up and a fall back down.
Yemi Sadiku
Yemi Sadiku Jul 11, 2021 3:51PM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
I like his guts
CHADWICK RICHINGTON
CHADWICK RICHINGTON Jul 11, 2021 3:37PM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
Hopefully he pulls a challenger and we will lose one more useless billionaire
Me comment
Me comment Jul 11, 2021 3:37PM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
racist
Dennis Jung
Dennis Jung Jul 11, 2021 3:37PM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
Me comment how is this racist? Just curious
Silence Dogood
Silence Dogood Jul 11, 2021 3:37PM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
Me comment  lol - not “racist”.. why do the flakes think everything is racist?
Kaveh Sun
Kaveh Sun Jul 11, 2021 12:24PM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
Hats off. He is a real showman n a big risk taker
 
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
 
Post
 
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
1000
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Add Chart to Comment
Confirm Block

Are you sure you want to block %USER_NAME%?

By doing so, you and %USER_NAME% will not be able to see any of each other's Investing.com's posts.

%USER_NAME% was successfully added to your Block List

Since you’ve just unblocked this person, you must wait 48 hours before renewing the block.

Report this comment

I feel that this comment is:

Comment flagged

Thank You!

Your report has been sent to our moderators for review
Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.
Continue with Google
or
Sign up with Email