Virgin Galactic, Richard Branson celebrates the success of the first passengers in space

Virgin Galactic has successfully launched the first passengers into space, including billionaire founder Richard Branson. The launch was at Spaceport America in New Mexico.

“Imagine a world where people of all ages, of all backgrounds, from anywhere, of all genders, of all ethnicities, have equal access to space.” Branson said. “Welcome to the dawn of a new Space Age!”

Branson and five crew members from his Virgin Galactic space-tourism company reached an altitude of 53.5 miles – enough to experience three to four minutes of weightlessness and witness the curvature of the Earth – before gliding back home to a runway landing.

Company spaceship VSS Unity took to the skies over New Mexico Sunday, with two pilots guiding the ship carrying the billionaire founder and three Virgin Galactic employees.

VSS Unity, after being launched to an altitude of 40,000 feet by an aircraft carrier named VMS Eve, activated its rocket engines and soared to three times the speed of sound as it ascended to the edge of space.

Unity is driven by Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci. In the spacecraft’s cabin, Branson was joined by astronaut head coach Beth Moses, chief operating engineer Colin Bennett and Vice President of Government Affairs Sirisha Bandla. Mackay and Masucci, as well as Moses and pilots CJ Sturckow and Mark Stucky, have flown into space.

The pilot flew more than 80 km (or about 262,000 feet) is officially considered an astronaut in the US

Together with two pilots, VSS Unity can accommodate up to six people. The company has about 600 reservations for future flights, with costs ranging from $200,000 to $250,000 per ticket.

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