'License to thrill': Billionaire Richard Branson reaches space in Virgin Galactic's Unity spaceship
After achieving the space feat, Richard Branson said, "Congratulations to everyone for creating such a beautiful, beautiful day."
The future of space tourism took a giant leap as Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson reached space onboard the VSS Unity from Spaceport America in New Mexico's Jornada del Muerto desert.
VMS Eve, a twin-fuselage carrier aircraft, took off with VSS Unity and released it at the height of about 50,000 feet (15,000m).
VSS Unity pilots Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci ignite the Unity's rocket engines, muscling the spacecraft at Mach 3 to the boundary of space at an altitude above 50 miles (80km).
After achieving the space feat, Branson said, "Congratulations to everyone for creating such a beautiful, beautiful day."
After the crew experienced few minutes of zero-gravity, the space plane made a re-entry into orbit and glided back to a runway landing. The entire trip, which was broadcast on YouTube and other social media handles of Virgin Atlantic, concluded with a smiling Branson hugging loved ones after exiting the spaceship.
Earlier, before getting onboard Unity, the flamboyant businessman signed the astronaut log book. The remarks in the logbook read: 'The name's Branson. Sir Richard Branson. Astronaut Double-oh one. License to thrill."
According to reports, over 600 people from many countries, including Hollywood celebrities, have already booked their seats for a ride into space with Virgin Galactic. Prices range from $200,000 (over Rs 1.4 crore) to $250,000 (over Rs 1.8 crore).
Virgin Galactic has planned two more flights before it launched regular commercial operations in early 2022.