Richard Branson won the “billionaire space race” on Sunday — launching himself and five others more than 50 miles above the earth to the point of weightlessness in his own Virgin Galactic rocket.
Richard Branson becomes first billionaire to get to space
“It was the complete experience of a lifetime,” the beaming British entrepreneur, who will turn 71 in a week, said after shaking the hand of another member of the crew.
“Now looking down at the spaceport, congratulations to everybody for creating such a beautiful plane and all the hard work for getting us this far.”
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. To the next generation of dreamers: if we can do this, just imagine what you can do https://t.co/Wyzj0nOBgX #Unity22 @virgingalactic pic.twitter.com/03EJmKiH8V— Richard Branson (@richardbranson) July 11, 2021
Richard Branson set off with five employees a little after 8:30 a.m. local time from Spaceport America in New Mexico, about 180 miles south of Albuquerque.
Less than an hour after takeoff, the VSS Eve plane released its rocket at an altitude of 53 miles — further than the 50-mile boundary considered by the US to be the boundary of space.
The crew was then able to unstrap to experience a few minutes of weightlessness before gliding back around 9:40 a.m. to the runway.
Richard Branson, who served as a mission specialist, threw his hands up in the air to cheer the landing before jogging down the tarmac for an emotional reunion with his wife, children and grandchildren.
“Like most kids, I have dreamed of this moment since I was a kid and honestly nothing could prepare you for the view from space,” Branson said in a ceremony with the crew to receive their wings after landing.
Branson had joined the flight to test the customer experience for future space tourists.
“Initially, I thought testing the customer experience was a little bit of an excuse to get me on it. It wasn’t… It’s so great to get out there and test the customer experience,” he said. “You get lists and lists of the little things and it’s the little details that matter.”