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Richard Branson achieves his feat with Virgin Galactic and opens the era of space tourism

Richard Branson achieves his feat with Virgin Galactic and opens the era of space tourism

The billionaire Richard Branson It has managed to accomplish the feat that it had been preparing for months. This Sunday he landed safely in New Mexico, in the southwestern United States, after spending a few minutes at the outer space border aboard a privately built ship. He has done it aboard the ship of his own company Virgin Galactic. It is a trip that the businessman had always dreamed of and a milestone for space tourism that various companies want to start commercializing.

The ship in which the British has traveled was baptized as VSS Unity and has transported, along with Branson, two pilots and three other passengers. After a few minutes at the border of outer space, in zero gravity, the spacecraft landed safely on an airbase runway. Spaceport America around 10:40 local time.

Billionaire Branson has called his short space adventure “a once-in-a-lifetime experience” minutes after returning to Earth. After this fleeting but relevant trip, Branson has become the first billionaire to travel into space on a ship developed by a private company. In this way, he has been able to experience first-hand what the potential space tourist will feel to whom he intends to offer, through his company Virgin Galactic, packages with the experience he has lived today. They are not expected to be cheap but totally exclusive trips.

In this competition to open up private space tourism, Branson has been ahead of the tycoon Jeff Bezos, owner of the giant Amazon, which hopes to achieve the same feat on July 20. The owner of Tesla and founder of the space company SpaceX, Elon Musk, is also among the participants in the race for tourism outside the Earth and has been present at this Sunday’s event supporting Branson and demonstrating his rivalry with Bezos.

Although it is not the first time that a person without an astronaut qualification or paid by a state agency travels to space, it is the first time that the trip to space is carried out entirely by a private company. In the 2000s, other billionaires traveled outside the Earth but aboard rockets built by the Russian space agency.

How was the Virgin Galactic flight?

After slight delays due to weather conditions, a huge plane has finally made a horizontal takeoff from Spaceport America base in New Mexico, carrying the VSS Unity, Virgin Galactic’s spacecraft. The take-off took place around 8:40 a.m. local time.

Once the plane has reached 15 kilometers in height, the ship where Branson was traveling and the rest of the passengers It has separated from the main aircraft and has started a supersonic ascent. Upon reaching 80 kilometers in height, the point established in the United States to locate the border between Earth and outer space, they have turned off the engines.

Without an engine, passengers aboard Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity have been able to detach from their seats and experience the weightlessness of space. They have also been able to observe from one of the 12 windows of the ship, the curvature of the planet we inhabit.

After reaching an altitude of around 90 kilometers, the ship has descended again until landing again at the base from where it landed. Few minutes compared to the number of months of work that this first tourist trip to space has required.

The Virgin Galactic base in the USA

The eccentric 70-year-old billionaire Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin group, whose activities range from an airline to sports, has long cultivated a brash image, with a number of sporting exploits. And he had always transferred his desire to conquer space. When I was a child, I wanted to go to space. As that did not seem likely to my generation, I registered the name Virgin Galactic, with the idea of ​​creating a company that would make it possible, “wrote Richard Branson a few days ago.

A goal that was about to fail in 2014: the in-flight accident of a Virgin Galactic spacecraft caused the death of a pilot, considerably delaying the program. Since then, VSS Unity has already arrived in space three times, in 2018 and 2019, with pilots on board and even a passenger in 2019.

The air base from which the plane took off on Sunday is Spaceport America, built in the New Mexico desert, less than 100 km north of the small town of Las Cruces. Virgin Galactic began construction, funded largely by this southwestern US state.

The base includes a track over 3.6 km long and a building with spaces dedicated to flight operations, as well as the reception of future clients.

$ 250,000 to travel to space

After Sunday, Virgin Galactic anticipates two more test flights, and then begin regular commercial operations by early 2022. And, in the long term, it intends to carry out 400 flights per year from Spaceport America.

Some 600 tickets have already been sold to people in 60 countries for a price between $ 200,000 and $ 250,000.

Although Branson keeps repeating that “space belongs to everyone,” adventure is still within the reach of a privileged few. “When I return (from space), I will announce something very exciting so that more people can become astronauts,” he promised before going into space.

Competition in the space tourism sector, whose imminent start has been announced for years, accelerated this month: the richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos, also plans to take to the skies on July 20 with his own rocket, baptized New Shepard and developed by his company Blue Origin. The firm wielded its merits against those of Virgin Galactic on Friday. This Sunday, however, Bezos wished Richard Branson “a successful flight” on his Instagram account.

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