The man who as a 20-year-old, was operating a mail order record store in London, has now travelled to the edge of space. Richard Branson has become the first of the three billionaires all in the private space business to successfully make the sub-orbital flight in person. Branson’s official role on the mission was “to evaluate the customer experience,” as he readies the company for what he believes will be space tourism for the masses.
He has partly financed the venture by pre-selling hundreds of trips to the wealthy and famous at $250,000 a pop.
It was the fourth launch of the Unity spacecraft after two disastrous accidents—one in 2007 and another in 2014 that killed four people and injured several more.
The Unity spacecraft was carried aloft by a specially designed double-fuselage aircraft — nicknamed Eve, after Branson’s late mother — and soared upwards. After the plane reached 50,000 feet, it was released.
In that moment, Unity briefly dropped. Its rocket motor then ignited, firing the billionaire and his fellow passengers towards the stars. When the craft reached the edge of space, its motor cut out. That’s the point when the passengers were set to be offered a few minutes of weightlessness, unbuckling to gaze at both the stars and the planet where their family and friends remain. Then they’d were strapped back in, and came back to earth for a flawless landing.
Back on earth a breathless Branson described his hopes for the future.