Richard Branson Becomes 1st Billionaire In Space; Beats Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk In Space Travel Race
Richard Branson of Virgin Galactic has become the first eminent billionaire to embark on a spaceflight on Sunday, beating Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and SpaceX’s Elon Musk.
Branson was accompanied by 5 crewmates including aeronautical engineer Sirisha Bandla from his Virgin Galactic space tourism company.
The crew managed to reach the altitude of about 88 kilometres over the New Mexico desert and experience three to four minutes of weightlessness and see the curvature of the Earth.
They then descended back home to a runway landing.
In a congratulatory statement, he said that the achievement came after 17 years of hard work.
Branson is now the first person to complete space flight succeeding Bezos by 9 days.
He also is now the 2nd septuagenarian to accomplish the same after John Glenn flew on the shuttle at age 77 in 1998.
Bandla, part of Branson’s crew, is now the third Indian-origin woman to fly into space after Kalpana Chawla and Sunita Williams. Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma is the only Indian citizen to travel in space.
500 people were watching the record taking place including Branson’s wife, children and grandchildren.
Chain Of Events
The crew took off on a twin-fuselage aircraft with his space plane attached underneath.
The plane then detached from the mother ship at an altitude of about 13 kilometres and fired its engine, reaching the edge of space.
The whole flight aboard the sleek white ship named Unity took just 15 minutes.
Branson wasn’t scheduled to embark on this journey till later this summer.
However he put himself on an earlier flight in order to beat Bezos on his own plans to take off on a rocket into space from Texas on July 20, marking the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
Also joining the congratulatory comments was SpaceX’s Elon Musk, tweeting him “Godspeed!”
He witnessed the feat take place in New Mexico.
Bezos joined Musk and added his own comments of the ways in which he believes his company’s rides will be better.
Bezos will take off on his own adventure via his Blue Origin company intends to send tourists past the so-called Karman line 100 kilometres above earth, which is recognised by international aviation and aerospace federations as the threshold of space.
Branson staged a livestream on Sunday and invited celebrities and former space station astronauts to the company’s Spaceport America base in New Mexico.
As part of the extravagant event, R&B singer Khalid performed and CBS “Late Show” host Stephen Colbert served as the event’s master of ceremonies.
Presently Virgin Galactic already has more than 600 reservations from would-be space tourists, with tickets initially costing $250,000 apiece.
Blue Origin has not yet confirmed ticket prices.
Musk’s SpaceX capsules will go into orbit around the Earth, with seats costing well into the millions. Its first private flight is set for September.
But the man himself is yet to announce plans on being on the flight himself