On Sunday, English business magnate, adventurer, investor, author, and commercial astronaut Richard Branson travelled more than 50 miles above the New Mexico desert aboard his Virgin Galactic rocket plane and safely returned in the craft’s first fully crewed test flight to space, which is quite a huge and symbolic milestone for a venture he started 17 years ago.
Richard Branson was a part of the ride which launched the beginning of what is being described as space tourism.
Founded by Richard Branson, US-based British-American company Virgin Galactic plans to begin commercial operations in 2022. Still excited about the journey after his return, the septuagenarian said that “We’re here to make space more accessible to all. Welcome to the dawn of a new space age”.
Amazon former CEO Jeff Bezos revealed in early June that he’d be going to space with his brother and a small crew on one of his Blue Origin space craft in July. “Ever since I was five years old, I’ve dreamed of traveling to space. On July 20th, I will take that journey with my brother”, he said. This planned trip would be his rocket’s company’s first-ever space travel.
Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic has, however, beaten Jeff Bezos Blue Origin following the successful flight to and fro. Richard Branson has therefore won bragging rights in a highly-publicized rivalry with Jeff Bezos on whose company would make it to space first.
Jeff Bezos shared a congratulatory message to Richard Branson via Instagram. “Congratulations on the flight. Can’t wait to join the club!”, his post read.
A celebration was held for space industry executives, future customers and other well-wishers to witness the launch, and was also livestreamed in a presentation hosted by late-night television comedian Stephen Colbert. Tesla boss Elon Musk was also present at the gathering. American singer Khalid performed his imminent single “New Normal” after the flight.
In a video from space, Richard Branson said that “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”.
Talking to reporters about the trip, he said that “Cameras don’t do it justice. You have to see it with your own eyes”.
Virgin Galactic has revealed plans of at least two test flight before it begins commercial operations in 2022. One of those flights will carry four Italian astronauts-in-training, Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier said. According to him, 600 wealthy would-be citizen astronauts have booked reservations priced at about $250,000 per ticket but Richard Branson mentioned that his ultimate aim is to bring the price down to about $40,000 per ticket as the Virgin Galactic ramps up service, achieving greater economies of scale.
Talking about Blue Origin and its imminent space trip, the billionaire said that “we wish Jeff the absolute best and that he will get up and enjoy his flight”. He said this at at post-flight news conference while insisting that he and Jeff Bezos were friendly rivals.