Where does Virgin Galactic take 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.
How long is Virgin Galactic flight?
How long will the space plane be up there? The trip will last in total about two and a half hours. However, Branson and his team will only be weightless in space for four to five minutes before the craft tilts and returns to Earth. The GuardianVirgin Galactic flight to the edge of space: your questions answered
How high is Richard Branson going?
Branson's flight today is expected to reach more than 50 miles high, which is the altitude the US government considers the beginning of outer space. Bezos' flight on July 20 will hit more than 62 miles high — also known as the Kármán line — which is the altitude internationally recognized as the boundary. CNNRichard Branson goes to space: Live updates
Why is Branson going to space?
The Branson flight by Virgin Galactic is part of the company's bid to open seats to paying space tourists in the coming months. The 70-year-old Branson founded the company in 2004 and has been wanting to go to space since July 1969, when he saw the Apollo 11 astronauts landing on the moon. Space.comVideo of Richard Branson's desert bike ride was recorded before Unity 22 launch day, Virgin Galactic clarifies
British billionaire Richard Bransonhis latest, and arguably greatest, adventure aboard his Virgin Galactic space plane. The flight marks not only Branson's first trip to space, but the first time Virgin has flown a fully crewed cabin.
Viewed from the surface, a diffuse but distinct white line could be seen rapidly painting almost perfectly vertically, pointing quite literally to the heavens.
The Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo space plane Unity and mothership separate as they fly way above Spaceport America, near Truth and Consequences, New Mexico on Sunday.
Branson called it the "experience of a lifetime" in a staticky radio transmission from Unity as it began to glide back to Earth. The craft then returned for a picture-perfect landing near the same spot VMS Eve launched from almost exactly an hour earlier. "Welcome to the dawn of a new space age," the 70-year-old Branson said later from the tarmac of Spaceport America.
VMS Eve is named for Branson's mother, Eve, who died due to COVID-19 complications in January.
"She held on for one last victory, managing to fight off the virus, but had expended all of her energy in the process," Branson wrote in a blog post citing her as a major inspiration and force behind his career. "She took glider lessons disguised as a boy, enlisted in the WRENS (Women's Royal Naval Service) during World War II ... she was inventive, fearless, relentless -- an entrepreneur before the word existed."
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Before taking off, Branson said he would be "looking back at our beautiful Earth and taking it all in and realizing that only 500 other people [actually it's 570, as of Saturday] have done this."
Also on the flight was Virgin's chief astronaut instructor Beth Moses, the only person to have previously ridden in SpaceShipTwo's passenger cabin, in 2019. The company's lead operations engineer Colin Bennett was on board along with Sirisha Bandla, vice president for government affairs. Bandla tended a research experiment from the University of Florida involving plant biology's adaptation to microgravity.
"The VG flights offer, for the first time, the ability to actively monitor experiments during launch and the initial entry into space. This ability to study biology that experiences launch and then microgravity is, perhaps surprisingly, a radical new development," Rob Ferl, principal investigator for the experiment and a professor of horticultural sciences, said in a statement. "Previously all experiments had to wait until the spaceship was in orbit before the experiment could be monitored."
Welcome Sirisha Bandla, Colin Bennett, and Beth Moses — our expert crew members joining @richardbranson on our #Unity22 test flight. Watch LIVE this Sunday at https://t.co/5UalYT7Hjb. @SirishaBandla @VGChiefTrainer pic.twitter.com/F4ZrGnH3vo
The two Virgin Galactic pilots at the controls of Unity were Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci, with former NASA astronaut CJ Sturckow and former NASA research pilot Kelly Latimer flying VMS Eve.
Richard Branson announced Virgin Galactic would give away two seats on an upcoming flight.
Branson has always been an adventurer and thrill seeker. His many adventure exploits include long-distance hot air balloon and trans-Atlantic sailing voyages. He is the oldest person to kite surf across the English Channel.
Once back on solid ground Branson announced that Virgin would be giving away two seats on an upcoming flight through an Omaze contest that also encourages donations to benefit the nonprofit Space for Humanity, which says its goal is "democratizing space and developing solutions to world problems through the increasing of human awareness."
You can rewatch the livestream of Virgin Galactic's flight below.
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18 July, 2021 - 06:01pm
13 July, 2021 - 04:46pm
A Virgin Galactic rocket plane carrying the company’s founder, Richard Branson, reached the edge of space on Sunday during a hotly anticipated and heavily publicized flight that made the British entrepreneur the ostensible winner of a new billionaire space race.
The launch had initially been planned for later in the summer, but it was moved up after Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest person, announced he would be heading to space on a rocket built by his company Blue Origin later this month. Branson has denied that there’s any competition between him and Bezos, but that hasn’t stopped the companies from quibbling over whether Sunday’s flight went high enough to count as going to space. Virgin Galactic’s plane cleared the threshold of 50 miles that NASA considers the barrier between Earth’s atmosphere and space, but flew below the international standard of 62 miles — the altitude Blue Origin intends to reach.
Though the launches have pitted Branson and Bezos against each other, their companies have drastically different roles in the burgeoning private space industry. Virgin Galactic is focused entirely on space tourism. Blue Origin has a broader vision that includes satellites, trips to the moon and, one day, floating space colonies. That model puts Blue Origin in more direct competition with SpaceX, the firm founded by Elon Musk — whose own interplanetary ambitions involve sending humans to Mars. SpaceX has dominated the commercial space industry recently, racking up lucrative contracts with everyone from NASA to the U.S. military to private satellite builders for SpaceX rockets to send their equipment and crews into space.
These billionaires have all made the case that advances in space technology pioneered by their companies will benefit humankind as a whole. While the notion induces eyerolls from critics, some space experts agree. “I think what these billionaires are doing is great,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said.
Supporters of the billionaire space race make two arguments in its favor. The first is a practical one. They argue that the battle for space dominance among these companies will lead to technological breakthroughs that will ultimately be utilized by people on Earth — just as the space race of the 1960s did. Others say companies like Blue Origin and SpaceX are a boon for science because their advanced new rockets open up new opportunities for research that cash-strapped space agencies like NASA aren’t able to complete on their own. The second argument in favor is more philosophical. Private space companies have reignited the world’s passion for space exploration, which had been dormant for decades, they argue. “We never want to lose our character as explorers, as adventurers,” Nelson said.
Critics say the billionaires are much more focused on personal glory and profit than they are on any benefits that might trickle down to regular people. If Bezos, Musk and Branson were truly concerned about benefiting humanity, detractors argue, they would put their vast wealth and ingenuity toward solving the many major problems facing people on Earth, like climate change, poverty and hunger.
There are also concerns that the endgame of the billionaire space race will ultimately be the de facto privatization of space, where a small number of firms hold virtual monopolies on what was once considered a realm that belonged to everyone. Many scientists also scoff at the loftier goals of colonies in orbit, the moon and Mars pitched by Bezos and Musk, as somewhere between far-fetched and outright impossible.
Bezos is scheduled to launch into space aboard a Blue Origin rocket on July 20. Musk announced this week that he would be heading to space on a Virgin Galactic flight in the near future.
“In a world with life-and-death needs for technological advancements — cures for cancer and infectious diseases, carbon sequestration and geo-engineering to mitigate climate change — can we really celebrate the entrepreneurs who have chosen to spend billions of dollars on space tourism? Yes, we can. We still want some visionaries to put money behind curiosity and imagination. We still need to push the limits of human experience and pursue what seems impossible or impractical.” — Editorial, Los Angeles Times
“The private space race among these entrepreneurs is part of a far more important marathon between Red China and the United States. Whichever nation wins the new space race will determine the future of the earth below.” — Brandon J. Weichert, National Review
“The billionaire aspect of this space race is an unfortunate distraction. The much more important part is we are democratizing access [to space]. This is a coming-of-age moment.” — Space industry analyst Caleb Williams, MIT Technology Review
“It’s not just about egos. Whenever you’re breaking into new territory — whether it's with electricity, airplanes or rockets — it often takes radical entrepreneurs to move the human experience to the next level.” — Space policy expert Greg Autry to NBC News
“These ‘events’ will be worth watching because of the technical achievements they represent for the companies involved, and the teams that worked hard on making sure either spacecraft is able to safely transport humans to space; the billionaires on board are mere chattel, weight and mass simulators that can provide a surprisingly good, but not altogether perfect, simulacrum of a human passenger.” — Darrell Etherington, TechCrunch
“NASA’s always interested in being able to access space more inexpensively; launching things into space is very, very costly. … So I think the reasoning is that if you can make that less expensive and somebody else takes on the risk, if you can contract that out, then that’s beneficial to NASA.” — Astronomer Lucianne Walkowicz to Slate
“When you understand the science, it becomes clear that the ‘billionaire space race’ is just that — nothing more than a pissing contest between egotistical robber barons.” — Sim Kern, Salon
“The billionaires, though, would rather not deal with the less-sexy problems of planetary inequality, world hunger, and climate refugees when they have their ‘space toys’ to play with instead. The billionaires want cocktail hours on rocket ships, 11 minutes in space, future business opportunities. The billionaires say they are helping, but it also looks suspiciously like leaving.” — Jeva Lange, The Week
“Wealthy people paying their way into exclusive, difficult-to-access spaces is as old as time. Tying spaceflight to wealth further emphasizes that space is yet another playground of the rich.” — Astrophysicist Lucianne Walkowicz to Space.com
“We have handed over so much of our fate to so few people over the last decades, especially when it comes to critical technology. As we take tentative steps toward leaving Earth, it feels like we are continuing to place too much of our trust in the hands of tech titans. Think about it: We the people invented the internet, and the tech moguls pretty much own it. And we the people invented space travel, and it now looks as if the moguls could own that, too.” — Kara Swisher, New York Times
“The billionaire obsession with space fantasy (and our willingness to go along with it) isn’t just disappointing, it’s nihilistic. Our idolatry of innovators is morphing into phantasmagoria.” — Scott Galloway, Business Insider
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