British billionaire Richard Branson finally got his space trip on Sunday.
Virgin Galactic’s spaceplane, the VSS Unity, has landed safely in New Mexico after climbing more than 50 miles above the ground on its first full crew test flight. You can view a live recording of the event on the company’s website Youtube channel.
“We are here to make space more accessible to everyone,” said the founder of Virgin Galactic shortly after the flight landed. “If you’ve ever had a dream, now is the time to make it come true. I would like to end by saying welcome to the dawn of a new space age.
The launch began at 10:30 a.m. ET, a 90-minute delay from the originally scheduled time thanks to strong winds the night before interfered with ground operations. The Virgin Galactic carrier aircraft VMS Eve (named after Branson’s late mother) transported the VSS Unity to its high altitude launch point at approximately 50,000 feet (15,240 meters). After splitting up, the spacecraft ignited its own hybrid rocket engine and climbed to an altitude of 53.5 miles (86.1 kilometers) before descending to an airstrip at Spaceport America, said Virgin Galactic in A press release.
At the top of their flight path, the crew, which included two pilots and three mission specialists alongside Branson, experienced a few minutes of weightlessness.
“I was once a kid with a dream staring at the stars,” Branson said on the show as his teammates could be seen floating behind him and celebrating. “Now I’m an adult in a spaceship… I’m looking at our beautiful, beautiful Earth. To the next generation of dreamers: if we can do it, imagine what you can do. “
The hour-long flight marks a milestone for Virgin Galactic, which aims to begin commercial operations as early as next year. Other billionaire aspiring astronauts shared the excitement. Branson took a picture with SpaceX CEO Elon Musk ahead of Sunday’s launch, which has already bought a ticket for his own trip to space aboard the Virgin Galactic plane. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who is set to take his first space trip aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket on July 20, praised Branson and co. on Instagram for the successful flight, adding: “I can’t wait to join the club! “
Virgin Galactic is also giving anyone a chance to win a trip on their space plane. After returning to Earth on Sunday, Branson announced a partnership with charitable fundraising platform Omaze to open a raffle who will send the winner and a guest to the Unity VSS for free. If you were to try to buy tickets for the same flight, it would cost you around half a million dollars, as they cost around $ 250,000 apiece. The winner will also receive a tour of Spaceport America led by Branson himself. The raffle, which runs until September 1, will raise funds for Space for Humanity, a non-profit organization working to democratize space travel.