Richard Branson achieves space for Virgin Galactic VSS unity
The sky above Spaceport America in Las Cruces, New Mexico, was struck by lightning last night. The storm was severe enough to delay Virgin Galactic’s planned expansion of its twin ship, the spacecraft EVE and a spacecraft called VSS UNITY, from their hangar. The delay meant that takeoff for the flight scheduled for today, which would send a crew UNITY 50 miles above Earth, would be pushed back 90 minutes.
But no matter – Richard Branson still had plenty of time to beat Jeff Bezos in space.
And he did. At 9:25 a.m. MT, about 45 minutes after taking off from the space airport at a delayed time, the dual spacecraft component, UNITY, was about to be released by EVE. Branson and five of his colleagues – two pilots, three other mission specialists – were on board. Branson waited for the rocket engine to start with a frozen smile on his face. Then the fire subsided from the vehicle, and in just under two minutes, it reached the height. Branson was on the edge of space, about 80 miles up. Fifteen minutes later, Branson and his crew were back on Earth, ready to talk about how Virgin Galactic would offer an identical experience to anyone wishing to pay $ 250,000 or more. Hundreds are already on the waiting list.
Branson is the king of spectacle, so it is not surprising that the launch had a festive feel. In the hours before departure, Branson’s Twitter feed, along with those of his colleagues, was filled with great videos aimed at portraying a hero’s journey. We saw him arriving at the space airport on a bicycle – pedaling across the Atlantic? – greeting his fellow crew, who were already decorated according to their pattern Suits under armor. “You are late!” they said. “Suit up!”
A longer version of the video showed them entering a logbook, with Branson identifying as Astronaut 001. The founder of Virgin Galactic posted a photo of a welcome observer to the launch – Elon Musk. As Branson walked the runway, he was surrounded by cheerful spectators; he stopped his fist walk to sign some souvenirs offered by young children. Direct food was cohosted by Stephen Colbert. On the side was waiting Khalid, who had written a song, “New Normal”, to be discovered at the end of the journey.
The only disappointment was that the direct feeding of the Media King in the capsule failed during the two minutes of the actual space trip. Spectators were denied a glimpse of Branson and his crew companions spinning in weightless bliss. (The closest we were to was about three seconds with very pixelated limbs swaying around.) We did not even hear from the British entrepreneur during his gravity-free time. “We will be sure to capture his magic words and share them with the world when they are available,” one of the Virgin commentators said in the live news.
Sleeping after today’s Virgin Galactic flight is a not-so-warm and vague competition among billionaires. Following a successful test flight in May, Virgin Galactic’s plan was to have three more test flights this year with Branson in the second of these. Por pas Announced Bezos that he would be among the passengers on the first Blue Origin crew flight, Branson hastily changed Virgin’s timetable. UNITY would return to flight on July 11, with the company’s fastest turnaround. And Branson would be on board, along with a full booth of his employees. In addition to personal risk, there was also a financial one: Virgin Galactic became a public company in late 2019 by joining an existing firm on the stock exchange, and an unsuccessful flight would steal the pooch, in terms of stock price.