- Title: Branson's shares his visions and dreams as he returns to earth
- Date: 11th July 2021
- Summary: TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES, NEW MEXICO, UNITED STATES (JULY 11, 2021) (REUTERS) (MUTE) VARIOUS OF BRITISH BILLIONAIRE AND FOUNDER OF THE VIRGIN GROUP, RICHARD BRANSON WALKING INTO VENUE FOR POST FLIGHT NEWS CONFERENCE
- Embargoed: 25th July 2021 19:18
- Keywords: Bezos Musk Richard Branson Virgin Galactic space tourism test flight
- Location: TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES, NEW MEXICO, UNITED STATES
- City: TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES, NEW MEXICO, UNITED STATES
- Country: USA
- Topics: Science,Space Exploration,United States
- Reuters ID: LVA001ELECOCN
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: British billionaire Richard Branson on Sunday soared more than 50 miles above the New Mexico desert aboard his Virgin Galactic rocket plane and safely returned in the vehicle's first fully crewed test flight to space, a symbolic milestone for a venture he started 17 years ago.
"I was once a kid with a dream, looking up to the stars," Branson told a news conference.
Branson, one of six Virgin Galactic Holding Inc employees strapped in for the ride, has touted the mission as a precursor to a new era of space tourism, with the company he founded in 2004 poised to begin commercial operations next year.
The success of the flight also gave the flamboyant entrepreneur bragging rights in a highly publicized rivalry with fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos, the Amazon online retail mogul who had hoped to fly into space first aboard his own space company's rocket.
"Congratulations on the flight," Bezos said on Instagram. "Can't wait to join the club!"
Space industry executives, future customers and other well-wishers were on hand for a festive gathering to witness the launch, which was livestreamed in a presentation hosted by late-night television comedian Stephen Colbert. Among those present was fellow billionaire and space industry pioneer Elon Musk, who also is founder of electric carmaker Tesla Inc .
The gleaming white spaceplane was carried aloft on Sunday attached to the underside of the dual-fuselage jet VMS Eve (named for Branson's late mother) in a takeoff from Spaceport America, a state-owned facility near the aptly named town of Truth or Consequences. Virgin Galactic leases a large section of the 18,000-acre site.
Reaching its high-altitude launch point at about 46,000 feet, the VSS Unity passenger rocket plane was released from the mothership and fell away as the crew ignited its rocket, sending it streaking straight upward at supersonic speed to the blackness of space some 53 miles (85.9 km) high.
Virgin has said it plans at least two further test flights of the spaceplane in the months ahead before beginning regular commercial operation in 2022.
Several hundred wealthy would-be citizen astronauts have already booked reservations, priced at around $250,000 per ticket.
The Swiss-based investment bank UBS has estimated the potential value of the space tourism market reaching $3 billion annually by 2030.
(Video Nathan Frandino, Production: Deborah Lutterbeck)
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