Virgin Galactic acknowledges Branson's pre-launch bike ride never happened

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Reuters 13 July, 2021 - 04:10pm 32 views

How far into space did Branson go?

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo Unity spaceplane reached the edge of space, flying to an altitude of more than 50 miles. The vehicle is carrying Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson and three employees and has two pilots at the controls. The Washington PostRichard Branson and his Virgin Galactic crew are safely back from space, ushering in a new era

Who flew with Richard Branson?

Two pilots, Dave Mackay and Mike Masucci, flew the vehicle. The late physicist Stephen Hawking gave the space plane its name, "VSS Unity." The plane was secured to the bottom of a mothership, a double-fuselage aircraft called "VMS Eve," after Branson's mother. Business InsiderVirgin Galactic just flew billionaire founder Richard Branson and 3 crewmates to the edge of space

Where is Branson taking off from?

Branson, three crewmates and two pilots launched on the historic flight after being carried into launch position by Virgin Galactic's carrier plane VMS Eve. They will take off from the company's homeport of Spaceport America in New Mexico, with a live webcast chronicling the flight. Space.comVirgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo Unity 22 launch with Richard Branson. See video and photos of the flight.

What is Virgin Galactic flight?

Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin flights offer about three to five minutes of continuous weightlessness. Scientists have been able to access suborbital space before, but primarily via uncrewed spacecraft. With these new vehicles, researchers are able to fly alongside the experiments and run them mid-flight. National GeographicWhat Virgin Galactic's milestone flight means for the future of tourists in space

Holly Branson admits she's 'lost for words' after father Richard returns from space

Daily Mail 13 July, 2021 - 06:17pm

By Hayley Richardson For Mailonline

Richard Branson's daughter Holly has shared a photo diary of her father's successful mission into space, admitting the experience left her 'lost for words'.

The British entrepreneur and billionaire celebrated the incredible feat yesterday with his wife, children and grandchildren, who greeted him on the tarmac after his Virgin Galactic spacecraft returned from a flight through the edge of the Earth's atmosphere.

Having previously revealed she 'hadn't left her dad's side for days' in the run-up to blast off, yesterday Holly, 39, said she'd 'never felt so many butterflies' in her stomach as she witnessed Sir Richard fulfil his dream which was 'more magical and emotional' than she ever could have imagined.

Earlier that day she also shared a childhood photo of her with her father and brother Sam - which Sir Richard brought with him into space - alongside a selfie snapped on the road to Spaceport America in New Mexico from which the launch took place, captioned: 'How it started vs. how it's going.' 

Richard Branson's daughter Holly has shared a photo diary of her father's successful mission into space, admitting the experience left her 'lost for words'. Pictured while 'counting down the minutes' to blast off with Sir Richard Branson, his wife Joan Templeman and son Sam Branson

Writing on Instagram and sharing a photo of her father with his granddaughter Etta, pictured, she said: 'Annnnndddd, breathe. What an emotional journey'

Holly said she'd 'never felt so many butterflies' in her stomach as she witnessed Sir Richard fulfil his dream which was 'more magical and emotional' than she ever could have imagined

Writing on Instagram and sharing a photo of her father with his granddaughter Etta, she said: 'Annnnndddd, breathe. What an emotional journey. 

'I am truly lost for words and have never felt so many butterflies in my stomach. Such an incredible and moving moment to be a part of. Dad has dreamt about this day since he was a little kid, but said that going to space was more magical than he ever imagined. 

'It was more magical and emotional to watch than I could have ever imagined too. Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who worked so hard to make this moment possible and everyone who has believed in @virgingalactic from day one. You're all amazing. Welcome to the dawn of a new space age!'

Prior to take off, Holly shared a sweet family photo with her father, mother Joan Templeman and brother Sam, revealing they were 'counting down the minutes' until Sir Richard 'made history', using the hashtags #Astronaut001 - a nod to Sir Richard's wisecrack as he signed the astronaut log book and climbed aboard: 'The name's Branson. Sir Richard Branson. Astronaut 001. License to thrill.'

Holly shared a childhood photo of her with her father and brother Sam - which Sir Richard brought with him into space

Along with the childhood snap, Holly posted a selfie snapped on the road to Spaceport America in New Mexico from which the launch took place, captioned: 'How it started vs. how it's going'

Holly shared a sweet photo of her and brother Sam, captioned: 'A big spaceport cuddle from my amazing brother @bransonsam. So, so glad we can all be here as a family to witness Dad’s spaceflight!'

Holly, an executive at Virgin, also posted a number of videos, with one showing Sir Richard turning up at Spaceport America on a bicycle before being told he was 'late' by grinning colleagues.

Another showed Sir Richard while in space onboard the Unity, in footage streamed live online, during which he said: 'To all you kids down there, I was once a child with a dream, looking up to the stars. Now I'm an adult in a spaceship, with lots of other wonderful adults looking down at our beautiful, beautiful Earth.

'To the next generation of dreamers, if we can do this, just imagine what you can do.'

Holly captioned the clip: 'This says it all.' She also shared a sweet photo of her and brother Sam, captioned: 'A big spaceport cuddle from my amazing brother @bransonsam. So, so glad we can all be here as a family to witness Dad’s spaceflight!'

Following Sir Richard's safe return to Earth, Holly then revealed she watched England take on Italy in the final of the European Championships, writing: 'I mean, what a day! 

'My dad has gone to space and now we are sitting in a spaceport watching England in the @euro2020 finals... Two statements that are rather unreal!' 

Following Sir Richard's safe return to Earth, Holly then revealed she watched England take on Italy in the final of the European Championships, writing: 'I mean, what a day!'

Holly shared a photo of the spaceship parked at Spaceport America, visible through the window as she watched the England match

Holly is the eldest child of Sir Richard and his wife Joan. The University College London graduate worked as a junior doctor for Britain's National Health Service before joining the Virgin Group in 2008. 

Sir Richard is the first person to enter space in their own vessel, a feat he accomplished nine days before Amazon founder Jeff Bezos plans to ride his own rocket ship - New Shepard - into space from Texas on July 20.

The business magnate sent his congratulations following the successful flight, writing: 'Can't wait to join the club!' 

The brief, up-and-down flight was intended as a confidence-boosting plug for Virgin Galactic, which plans to start taking paying customers on joyrides next year.

Footage streamed live online showed the Virgin Galactic in the air at about 3.45pm UK time, and the aircraft had reached 40,000 feet by 4pm. The spacecraft was carried up into the atmosphere by its mothership before being released so it could power up to highs of 250,000ft.

Sir Richard and his crew of six Virgin Galactic employees reached speeds of Mach 3 on their way to the edge of space. After a short spell during which they experienced weightlessness, the craft then pointed downwards and made its way back to the ground, touching down around 4.40pm.

Holly previously revealed she 'hadn't left her dad's side for days' in the run-up to blast off - and daughter Etta was 'doing the same'

On the return flight, Sir Richard hailed the 'experience of a lifetime' and the 'hard, hard work' that went into the flight. 

Mike Moses, a top executive at Virgin Galactic, said the flight was 'perfect' aside from some issues with the transmission of images from inside the cabin. He added the spacecraft looked pristine upon its return.

'That was an amazing accomplishment,' former Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, a one-time commander of the International Space Station, said. 'I'm just so delighted at what this open door is going to lead to now. It's a great moment.'

Michael Colglazier, chief executive of Virgin Galactic, added: 'This is a landmark moment for Virgin Galactic. It's a landmark moment for the new commercial space industry and it certainly is a landmark moment for our founder Richard Branson.'

He said the company's work was dedicated to 'opening up space to all'.

Astronaut Sir Richard Branson has inaugurated the dawn of the age of space tourism by becoming the first billionaire to make it into space after the 70-year-old Virgin Galactic founder took off on a flight to the edge of Earth's atmosphere in the VSS Unity plane

Sir Richard Branson revealed the crew uniforms were deliberately designed to reflect his love of the Star Trek series. He is pictured with fellow crew members Dave Mackay, Colin Bennett, Beth Moses, Sirisha Bandla and pilot Michael Masucci

Sir Richard Branson was greeted by his wife, children and grandchildren when his Virgin Galactic spacecraft returned from a flight through the edge of the Earth's atmosphere

In a statement posted after the flight, Sir Richard said 'how you feel when you look when you look down on Earth is impossible to put into words, it's just indescribable beauty. I can't wait for you all to get up there.'

The businessman added: 'Imagine a world where people of all ages and backgrounds, from anywhere, of any gender, of any ethnicity have equal access to space. They will in turn, inspire us all back here on Earth.

'If you've ever had a dream, now is the time to make it come true. Welcome to the dawn of a new space age.'

Sir Richard also confirmed plans to 'turn the next generation of dreamers into the astronauts of today', while announcing an Omaze sweepstake for the chance to win two seats aboard one of the first commercial Virgin Galactic flights.

Richard Branson holds up photos that he brought with him into space, as he speaks after flying into space aboard a Virgin Galactic vessel, a voyage he described as the 'experience of a lifetime'

He was not supposed to fly until later this summer, but he assigned himself to an earlier flight after Bezos announced plans to ride his own rocket ship into space from Texas on July 20. More than 600 people have already made reservations for a £180,000 ride into space with Virgin Galactic, founded in 2004. 

The successful mission made Sir Richard the second oldest person to travel to space - after 77-year-old John Glenn in 1998.

Prior to take off he told the Times newspaper that the view alone will be worth the £1billion he has spent on the project, and added: 'I think it's one of the reasons that people want to become astronauts. They want to look back at this beautiful Earth.' 

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Late Night Has Plenty of Virgin Jokes

The New York Times 13 July, 2021 - 06:17pm

Richard Branson’s spaceflight with his company Virgin Galactic was the talk of late night on Monday.

Late-night hosts couldn’t resist poking fun at Richard Branson’s trek into space over the weekend with his company Virgin Galactic, the first in a series of planned trips by billionaire entrepreneurs.

“You know these are crazy times when it’s safer flying to space than going on a Carnival Cruise, don’t you think?” Jimmy Fallon joked in his monologue on Monday.

“That’s right, Virgin Galactic made history by launching the first goatee into space.” — JIMMY FALLON

“Yeah, Branson went with two pilots and three of his employees. So if you think it’s awkward riding an elevator with your boss, try going to space.” — JIMMY FALLON

“Actually, I got a little choked up watching Branson’s flight. It always warms my heart to see billionaires achieve their dreams.” — JIMMY FALLON

“I was happy for him, though. Normally when a billionaire flies away faster than the speed of sound, it’s because they just got linked to Jeffrey Epstein.” — JIMMY FALLON

“That’s right, Branson beat Jeff Bezos to space. That’s why Branson got home and found a little flaming Amazon package on his front porch.” — JIMMY FALLON

“The Virgin flight took about an hour, which is the first time any virgin has ever done anything in an hour.” — ARSENIO HALL, guest host on “Jimmy Kimmel Live”

“Branson’s trip to space only lasted about four minutes, which is honestly pretty good for a virgin.” — JIMMY FALLON

“Now, technically — technically — Branson’s flight reached the edge of space, and the Virgin Galactic crew experienced only four minutes of weightlessness. He barely went in and lasted only a few minutes? Well, that is a virgin.” — STEPHEN COLBERT

“That’s right, the flight went more than 50 miles high to the edge of space. Southwest heard and was like, ‘Big deal. We did that last week when one of our pilots fell asleep.’” — JIMMY FALLON

“Eighty kilometers? That’s not even worth mentioning at a party.” — SETH MEYERS

“Just ’cause you touched net doesn’t mean you can say you dunked. Branson’s like one of those guys who say, ‘Yeah, I’ve been to Texas’ and then you find out he changed planes once at Dallas-Fort Worth.” — SETH MEYERS

“Call me when you’ve reached the moon, Richard. Surprised he didn’t call me yesterday — he’s probably got cell service up there.” — SETH MEYERS

Seth Meyers’s “Closer Look” delved into some of the more notable moments from the Conservative Political Action Conference over the weekend.

Richard Branson, just back from space, will check in with Stephen Colbert on Tuesday’s “Late Show.”

HBO’s new series “The White Lotus” is a perfectly timed satire of privilege from Mike White, the writer behind the short-lived but beloved show “Enlightened.”

New Mexico betting on Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic success for tourism boost

USA TODAY 13 July, 2021 - 06:17pm

Virgin Galactic's space flights could help New Mexico tourism.

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Richard Branson had a special message moments after reaching the edge of space Wochit

TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES, N.M. — With Virgin Galactic making its highest profile test flight to date with boss Richard Branson aboard, it’s only a matter of time before paying customers get their chance and New Mexico realizes a dream that has been decades in the making.

Former Gov. Bill Richardson is among those who have been watching the progress of the space tourism company, ever since he and his team recruited the British billionaire to New Mexico. The two shook hands on a promise — Branson would build the world's first commercial spaceline for tourists, and New Mexico would build the spaceport.

To naysayers who thought it was a boondoggle and a waste of taxpayer money, Richardson said: “You were dead wrong. You have to have a vision for the future, and it’s going to happen, and it’s going to be great.”

The two-term governor was among those who were elated to see Branson and his crewmates rocket to the edge of space on Sunday. About 500 guests — including celebrities, Virgin Galactic customers, politicians and a group of students — watched from just outside the terminal at Spaceport America, while others across New Mexico held watch parties and people around the world tuned in to a livestream.

Watch Virgin Galactic's rocket ship carrying Richard Branson make history in 2 minute recap USA TODAY

Rick Homans, the state economic development secretary who led early negotiations with Virgin Galactic, was among those in attendance. He acknowledged it has been a long and difficult road that started with many unknowns for both the state and the space tourism company.

Was it worth it? Undoubtedly, he said.

“Look around here,” he said Sunday. “The attention of the entire globe is on Spaceport America now and on the industry that could grow here. And I think where we are right now is at the very beginning of something so much bigger, and so that investment is going to pay off in the decades to come.”

Residents of Truth or Consequences, an eclectic desert community about 30 miles (48 kilometers) away, are excited to be on the map again. The city first gained notary in 1950 when it agreed to change its name from Hot Springs to Truth or Consequences as part of a publicity stunt put on by a radio show of the same name.

Still, many residents are tempering their optimism as the space tourism venture has taken nearly two decades to get off the ground and it's unclear how often Virgin Galactic will be flying paying customers to the edge of space and whether any spending related to those brief up-and-down trips will trickle down to shopkeepers and other businesses in town.

They also questioned how many space fans and other spectators would be drawn to the area since security is high at the spaceport and guided tours are considered pricy by some.

Others have mixed feelings about having paid extra taxes to help bankroll the spaceport, saying their community is still in dire need of infrastructure improvements, namely a better drinking water system. There's also a lack of housing for residents, much less adequate accommodations for tourists.

“Our tax dollars are paying for the roads to go out there and everything, so it would be nice if we could actually benefit from that,” said Patty Lane, who helps run a gift shop in the town of roughly 5,900 people. “We're a small community. We need that.”

Lane said it's clear that developing a viable commercial spaceline has become a competition, and she's hopeful that will drive more innovation and more aerospace companies to consider moving to the state. Only then, with more private investment, can the industry really take off in New Mexico, she said.

Top state officials are looking for the same thing. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Economic Development Secretary Alicia J. Keyes said the next step will be a push to get Virgin Galactic to relocate its manufacturing operations to New Mexico as more rocket planes will be needed for the future.

While Sunday's flight helped to promote Virgin Galactic, state officials said it also gave millions of people around the world a look at New Mexico.

Lujan Grisham claimed there are potentially billions of dollars at stake as the space industry grows — from science and technology investments to tourism spending.

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“We absolutely want more companies identifying New Mexico as their corporate headquarters,” she said, adding that the space industry could help to stabilize the state's economy.

That's a battle many governors have faced in states where the oil and gas industry is a key economic driver and makes up a significant source of revenue for education and other government programs. Richardson said one of his objectives during his term was to create another industry, and that's why he went after Branson and Virgin Galactic.

LaRene Miller was busy Monday getting visitors to sign the guest book at the T or C visitor center, where a wing of the building is dedicated to Spaceport America. About half of the 15 visitors over the last day included those who were passing through town to see the spaceport or catch a glimpse of Branson's flight.

One group bought souvenirs. Another woman asked about the drive to the site.

They all had either watched the launch via the livestream or stepped outside to see the contrails.

Jeffre Dukatt, who runs a T-shirt shop in Truth or Consequences, is among the many residents who have been waiting years for the promise of the spaceport.

“I got to see it in real life,” he said, describing his view from town of the ascending rocket plane. “It was like the moon walk to me.”

With two test flights remaining, Dukatt and others are hopeful they won't have to wait as long for the next step.

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© 2021 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Satellite Information Network, LLC.

Win a ticket to ride...into space! - Now Habersham

Now Habersham 12 July, 2021 - 11:20am

Now, Habersham, and all parts in between, here’s your chance to (maybe) catch a ride on a rocket!

Space pioneering billionaire Richard Branson is offering a ticket giveaway, following Sunday’s successful launch of his Virgin Galactic flight into suborbital space,

Branson is teaming up with the charity fundraising platform Omaze to give away two tickets aboard a future space flight. The winner and their guest will fly on Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity ship, which carried Branson and fellow passengers into suborbital space on July 11. The companies say the giveaway will support a nonprofit called Space for Humanity, which states that it aims to “democratize space.”

To be eligible, you must be at least 18 years old, come from a part of the world where participation wouldn’t be prohibited, and provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination, Space.com pointed out. Participants would also be asked to release the sweepstakes holders of “all liability, loss or damage or expense arising out of, or in connection with, participation in any experience or the acceptance, use or misuse of any prizes.”

If you’re still intrigued and want your shot at the stars, visit www.omaze.com/space to read the full rules and enter. While it is a fundraiser, organizers say “no donation or payment is necessary to enter or win.”

The deadline to enter is August 31.

Sunday, Branson became the first person to blast off in his own spaceship, beating Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos by nine days. Bezos is set to head to space on July 20 with his rocket company Blue Origin on their first vehicle called New Shepard.

Branson, 70, also became only the second septuagenarian to depart for space, as the Associated Press noted. In 1998, Astronaut John Glenn flew on the shuttle Discovery at age 77, making him the oldest human ever to travel to space, according to History.com.

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