Richard Branson addresses critics who say money shouldn't be spent on space travel

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Today.com 14 July, 2021 - 07:24am 37 views

When is Richard Branson going to space?

Update for 10:45 a.m. EDT: Virgin Galactic's Unity 22 launch webcast has begun. Virgin Galactic will launch its billionaire founder Richard Branson and a crew of five others into suborbital space today (July 11) and you can watch milestone flight live online. Space.comVirgin Galactic will launch billionaire Richard Branson into space today. Here's how to watch it live.

Is Richard Branson going into space?

Richard Branson, the British billionaire and entrepreneur, will take a rocket-powered space plane to the edge of space today. The flight will make Branson the first billionaire to ever travel to space aboard a vehicle he helped fund the development of. From takeoff to landing, the joy ride should take roughly an hour. CNNRichard Branson goes to space: Live updates

Where is Virgin Galactic taking off from?

They will take off from the company's homeport of Spaceport America in New Mexico, with a live webcast chronicling the flight. Here's everything you need to know about the mission, which Virgin Galactic has dubbed Unity 22. Space.comVirgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo Unity 22 launch with Richard Branson. See video and photos of the flight.

Why did Richard Branson go to space?

PHOTOS: Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos Are Going to Space. Here's How Their Trips Will Differ. Mr. Branson's role was to assess the experience for a private customer, from training, to how the company helps passengers build confidence before takeoff, to the actual launch into space, Mr. Colglazier said. The Wall Street JournalVirgin Galactic Took Richard Branson to Space. Paying Customers Are Next.

Virgin Galactic plans to introduce 2 new spacecraft that are easier to maintain and turn around for daily flights

Yahoo News 14 July, 2021 - 08:37am

The CEO told the Financial Times the company faces hurdles following the successful flight with founder Richard Branson.

There will be two more tests this year before commercial passenger flights begin in 2022.

See more stories on Insider's business page.

Virgin Galactic is looking to raise $500 million in order to fund the development of its space fleet and expansion of its spaceports around the world, according to filings with the US Securities Exchange Commission.

The announcement came one day after founder Richard Branson successfully flew with a crew of company employees to the edge of space in the VSS Unity space plane.

But several short-term challenges remain before the space tourism company can fully ramp up to its target of offering 400 flights per year from every spaceport, the CEO said in an interview with the Financial Times.

"I think for a while this is going to be a very supply-constrained business," said Michael Colglazier, who became CEO last year.

The company plans to complete two more test flights this year before it begins chipping away at the 600-person waiting list of commercial passenger ticket holders in 2022.

The sold tickets are worth a combined $80 million, according to filings, and another 1,000 people have placed $1,000 deposits toward the future purchase of tickets when sales reopen.

With room for just four passengers on the StarShipTwo space plane, Colglazier said Virgin Galactic plans to introduce two new craft that are easier to maintain and turnaround to support daily flights.

"I'm expecting high single-digit numbers to low double-digit numbers of spaceships [at each site] in order to kind of reach numbers like that," he said.

Colglazier also told the FT that the decision to move Branson's flight schedule forward - ahead of Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin flight next week - was motivated not by rivalry but by Branson's role in testing the customer experience.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Omaze's latest sweepstakes offers the chance to win two seats on a Virgin Galactic trip to space.

And even meet Richard Branson himself.

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The BBC tracks the long, winding road to Sir Richard Branson's flight to the edge of space.

Virgin Galactic Holding Inc acknowledged on Tuesday that billionaire founder Richard Branson never rode a bicycle to the launch site of his space flight on Sunday, as depicted in a highly publicized video included in the company's webcast of the event. The video clip showed Branson riding his bike toward New Mexico's state-owned Spaceport America near the town of Truth or Consequences, flanked by two SUVs, and handing his safety helmet to an assistant upon arrival. Branson, 70, is then seen greeting crewmates dressed in their flight suits with a hug, with one of them, Beth Moses, the company's chief astronaut instructor, telling him, “You’re late, hurry up.”

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Elon Musk bought a ticket to space aboard Virgin Galactic, suggesting that SpaceX and Virgin aren't quite the bitter enemies you might expect.

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The Virgin Group founder became the first billionaire to fly into space aboard his own spacecraft, Virgin Galactic's Unity 22, on Sunday.

Billionaire Richard Branson Says Completing Lifelong Goal of Visiting Space Felt Like 'a Dream'

PEOPLE 14 July, 2021 - 08:36am

"My kids were saying, 'You can't wait up for him, you could be waiting up all night. You got a big day tomorrow,'" the 70-year-old father of three and founder of Virgin Galactic tells PEOPLE. "So I finally went to bed quite late."

But Branson awoke a short time later, looked at his watch, and rushed out of the bedroom after misreading the time as 2:30 in the morning. His guest had already arrived.

"I took a look at my watch again, and it was 12:30," he recalls. "Anyway, Elon was in the kitchen."

Branson's visitor, Elon Musk, is a fellow billionaire and the founder of space transportation services company SpaceX. The wealthy duo stayed up into the wee hours of the morning as Branson counted down the minutes to his flight. He wouldn't mistake the time on his watch again.

"I was too excited to go back to sleep," the golden-haired Branson says. (A photograph of him and a barefooted Musk from that morning soon made its way to Instagram.)

A short while later, as the blazing sun rose over Virgin Galactic's spaceport in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, Branson and five crew members strapped themselves into the VSS Unity. The rocket-powered spaceplane was attached to the VMS Eve, a dual fuselage carrier aircraft named after Branson's "courageous" mother, who died of COVID-19 in January.

Around 8:30 a.m., Eve began its ascent tens of thousands of feet into the air until Unity freed itself from the mothership and let its powerful rocket fly the crew to an altitude of 53.5 miles above Earth's surface, which is past the 50-mile mark NASA and the U.S. military consider the edge of space.

"I was surprised how relaxed I was, in a really good frame of mind, it was just great," Branson says. "We'd been trained so well, I knew exactly what to expect and when, and I was fierce and healthy."

"I can't remember what it is — a minute and a half, two minutes — that you're being pressed to your seat [after Unity fired its rocket], but it feels like an eternity, which is great," the English entrepreneur continues. "When we reached apogee... [we experienced] the complete silence, the complete opposite of the roar of the rocket as you're roaring up there. And then, the Earth is turning below you."

The mission, which the company named "Unity 22," lasted about an hour in total before the crew touched down in New Mexico's desert.

Virgin Galactic aims to begin taking private citizens to space in 2022, and Branson hopes his trip inspires young people to learn more about the stars. On Sunday, the company announced a partnership with Omaze to raffle off two seats aboard one of its first commercial flights.

Branson says his love affair with space began while watching astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins fly to the moon in July 1969. A year later, he founded Virgin as a mail-order record retailer.

"The trip to the moon was it for our generation, and these trips are meant to inspire young people and future generations."

"The trip to the moon was it for our generation, and these trips are meant to inspire young people and future generations," the avid adventurer, who lists kitesurfing across the English Channel as one of his many feats, explains. "To give young people the realization that they really may be able to go into space."

But Branson isn't alone in his dream of offering out-of-this-world flights to paying customers. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, currently the richest man in the world, is slated to take one of his Blue Origin rockets to space on July 20 with his brother, Mark.

Officially, Branson's mission during Unity 22 was to "evaluate the private astronaut experience," essentially meaning it was time for the boss to review the product. Ever the businessman, Branson says he may have a few ideas to make the trip even better for future astronauts.

"In order to make something absolutely perfect, I really do love to experience it myself. And then, make long lists of little things that can make for an even better customer experience, in the future," he explains. "They really are little things. I will have fulfilled my role as the first customer experience passenger, or staff member, to hand in that list to make sure that all those little things, boxes are ticked for the future."

Moving forward, Branson says he has many other things he'd like to accomplish, such as seeing off the first Virgin Galactic customers and using technology to take on planet-wide problems, such as monitoring climate change, deforestation, and illegal fishing.

But first, he'll take some time to appreciate what has been the sweetest experience of his life thus far.

"This morning when I got back up, I said to the kids just as we're coming back, 'I still think I might wake up tomorrow morning, and find it actually hasn't happened,'" Branson says before pausing to soak in the moment. "The first thing I sent my son was a note this morning, it said, 'It wasn't a dream.'"

Video of Richard Branson's desert bike ride was recorded before Unity 22 launch day, Virgin Galactic clarifies

Space.com 14 July, 2021 - 06:00am

"The footage of Sir Richard Branson shown during the event today [July 11] was prerecorded and misidentified in the broadcast. We regret the error and any confusion it may have caused," Virgin Galactic representatives said in a statement emailed to Space.com. Space.com reported on the video on launch day and has corrected its story. 

Related: Virgin Galactic launches Richard Branson to space in 1st fully crewed flight More: 'Welcome to the dawn of a new space age,' Branson says

Branson also told spectators about the bike ride during a post-flight celebration at the spaceport, Reuters said. "It's so awesome to arrive on a bicycle, across this beautiful New Mexico countryside," Branson was quoted as telling the crowd from a stage.

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Editorial: Private space tourism is here, but let's not forget NASA

Houston Chronicle 13 July, 2021 - 03:00am

British billionaire Richard Branson took a quick trip from New Mexico to the edge of space and back on Sunday, and along the way reminded us all of the near-limitless human capacity for solving problems of time, space and distance.

Branson and three fellow crew members, plus two pilots, from Virgin Galactic took off in a winged rocket named VSS Unity that was attached to a carrier plane that rose 45,000 feet before separating, allowing the rocket to blast nearly 50 miles further into the sky to spend a few weightless minutes in space before gliding back to Earth. The whole trip was over in about an hour, less time that typically required to drive from downtown Houston to Katy and back.

“To all you kids down there, I was once a child with a dream,” Branson said from aboard the Unity. “To the next generation of dreamers, if we can do this, just imagine what you can do.

We won’t have to imagine long. Next week, another brash billionaire with galactic ambitions, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, will be a passenger aboard his commercial space company Blue Origin’s rocket on a similar suborbital flight. Already, Tesla founder Elon Musk’s SpaceX has ferried cargo more than 20 times to and from the International Space Station, which orbits from more than 200 miles above Earth. By next year, all three companies expect to be selling seats aboard rockets to passengers willing to pay enormous fares.

Space tourism, and the broader commercial space industry in general, can seem a narrower enterprise by contrast. Selling tickets to space isn’t a national project, or even a collective one. It’s the grand execution of individual genius, helped along to be sure by thousands of workers, but though these companies — SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic — will accomplish scientific and engineering marvels, they will be working on their founders’ behalf, not the nation’s.

American history, indeed the history of the world, is replete with ways titanic individual dreams have shaped all our destinies, often vastly for the better. But the genius of the manned space program that rose up in America out of the heady mix of Cold War competition and New Frontier humanism was how it seemed like a project that elevated mankind itself.

Sunday’s flight had some of that magic in it. Certainly, the view Branson had as he looked back down on Earth from more than 50 miles in the sky was one all the astronauts of old have spoke on, too. Some call it the planetary perspective, or orbital perspective. In 2019, NASA astronaut Scott Kelly described that for the editorial board as a reminder one never forgets of how fragile, how desperate for peace and cooperation, this planet really is.

We can hope the ultra-wealthy who buy their way into space return to Earth with greater awareness, and some good comes of it.

Let us remember how vital it is that we not get so used to these individual achievements that our nation loses its commitment to our collective endeavors in space. The good news on that front is that NASA continues to race forward on its Artemis program, which aims to return Americans astronauts to the Moon within a few years. The private space industry is playing a major role in helping NASA bring down the costs of its grand ambitions and has already won key contracts. When NASA gets to the Moon this time, it plans to stick around long enough to conduct long-term research. When the time is right, that system will serve as a stepping stone for the next great American adventure in space: manned flight to Mars.

Sunday’s quick commute to the end of the atmosphere and back was just a taste of things to come.

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