The mission was successful: The billionaire Richard Branson flew into space with a crew of six. It was probably also the starting signal for space tourism.
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The British entrepreneur is in the race of three billionaires for a leadership role in space tourism Richard Branson flew into space first. According to Branson's company Virgin Galactic, the “VSS Unity” rose to an altitude of more than 80 kilometers after taking off in the US state of New Mexico on Sunday.
After a few minutes, in which the astronauts experienced weightlessness, the spaceship started to re-enter the earth's atmosphere and finally landed again at the commercial spaceport Spaceport America. Branson congratulated his company on the approach and called the experience "wonderful".
The 70-year-old set out on Sunday with two astronauts and three astronauts. The spaceship was first brought under a mother plane to an altitude of about 14 kilometers and then set down. Then the engine ignited and accelerated the spacecraft during a steep ascent, according to the information to more than three times the speed of sound, which corresponds to more than 3.700 kilometers per hour. TV footage showed the sky turning from blue to black as Branson and his crew left the atmosphere.
Space tourism as a destination
A goal of Branson - and also of the Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Tesla boss Elon Musk - is to do business with that Space tourism to get in. But Branson's All-Trip is also a successful PR coup against his competitor Bezos: The richest man in the world had advertised his flight into space on July 20 at great expense in the past few weeks - then Branson came and announced that he was nine Days early. The live coverage of the flight by Virgin Galactic gave the impression of a promotional event.
Exterior view of the spaceship “VSS Unity”: Billionaire Richard Branson has flown into space. (Source: Virgin Galactic / imago images)
However, it is disputed among experts whether Branson was actually in space: The International Aviation Association (FAI) and many other experts see 100 kilometers above the earth as the limit to space, but there are no binding international regulations. For example, soldiers in the US Air Force received the designation astronaut, even though they had only flown to an altitude of 50 miles (80,5 kilometers). For comparison: the international space station ISS is about 400 kilometers above the earth's surface.
"A great day lies ahead of us"
The 18-meter-long “VSS Unity” spaceplane offers space for two pilots and six passengers, and from 2022 it is expected to take tourists into space. The extremely rich adventurer is by no means the first tourist in weightlessness, but he wants to make commercial space flights socially acceptable with Virgin Galactic - just like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk.
Branson posed with the Tesla boss on a Twitter photo on Sunday morning and wrote: “A great day lies ahead of us. Great to start the morning with a friend. I feel good, excited, ready. "
Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos' space company, had already announced a manned flight with the "New Shepard" rocket in May. The 57-year-old wants to take his brother and an 82-year-old former US pilot on their maiden flight into space on July 20. Another seat was auctioned a few weeks ago for 28 million US dollars to a previously unknown person.