LAS CRUCES, N.M. — Virgin Galactic successfully completed its first fully crewed spaceflight over the weekend.
The company says its flight on Sunday was its first test flight with a full crew onboard the VSS Unity, including its founder, Sir Richard Branson.
Branson, 70, beat other billionaires with his journey to space, like former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. The wealthy men are among those who are in a race to commercialize spaceflight.
“I have dreamt about this moment since I was a child, but nothing could have prepared me for the view of Earth from space,” said Branson. “We are at the vanguard of a new space age. As Virgin’s founder, I was honored to test the incredible customer experience as part of this remarkable crew of mission specialists and now astronauts. I can’t wait to share this experience with aspiring astronauts around the world.”
During Sunday’s mission, Virgin Galactic says its VSS Unity achieved a speed of Mach 3 after being released from a mother ship called VMS Eve. The VSS Unity reached space at an altitude of 53.3 miles, enough to experience three to four minutes of weightlessness and to see the curvature of the Earth.
The crew then glided to a runway and landed at Spaceport America in New Mexico.
Virgin Galactic says the crew aboard the VSS Unity fulfilled a number of test objectives related to the cabin and customer experience, including evaluating the commercial customer cabin, the views of Earth from space, the conditions for conducting research, and the effectiveness of its five-day pre-flight training program.
Branson says his mission is to make space more accessible to all. To achieve this, he says he’s partnering with Omaze and Space for Humanity to inspire the next generation of dreamers.
“For so long, we have looked back in wonder at the space pioneers of yesterday. Now, I want the astronauts of tomorrow to look forward and make their own dreams come true,” said Branson.