Today, i.e., on July 11th, businessman Richard Branson will take off from New Mexico to reach the edge of space, inaugurating a new business model for space travel. Branson, who is 70, will take off aboard the first crewed flight of his private space company Virgin Galactic.
The space flight will be broadcasted live through the company’s website, as well as on its Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook pages. The launch of the spacecraft will be conducted from Spaceport America in New Mexico. The live coverage of the same will begin at 9 a.m. on Sunday ET.
Branson will act as a specialist on mission Unity 22, the company’s fourth manned spaceflight on its VSS Unity spacecraft. Branson will be joined in space by other Virgin Galactic staff, which will include Beth Moses, chief astronaut instructor; Colin Bennet, Chief Operations Engineer; and SirishaBandla, Vice President for Government Affairs and Investigative Operations. Both Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci, who are experienced professionals, will be the pilot of the spacecraft, and C.J. Sturckow and Kelly Latimer will pilot the plane from which the spacecraft will take off.
Branson’s role is to evaluate the experience of private astronauts to prepare future clients, something Virgin Galactic hopes to do beginning in 2022. Khalid, the globally renowned R&B singer, left a tweet on Friday saying that he will be in the launch and will debut a new song.
The spacecraft named VSS Unity is set to be launched from a customized-built in mother aircraft, which is the VMS Eve, that is about to initiate taking off procedure, rising from a conventional runway. The spacecraft, at an approximate altitude of 50,000 feet, will release from the aircraft and glide toward the edge of space, where its crew members on board can experience a few minutes of microgravity, as well as spectacular views of Earth and space. Previous test flights of the spacecraft reached an altitude of 55.5 miles.
As gravity pulls the spacecraft back into Earth’s upper atmosphere, astronauts will lock into their seats to return to Earth’s surface. The spacecraft will once again glide to Spaceport America to land on the runway. In his previous interviews, Branson has stated that the flight is going to take an hour and a half in total.
Virgin Galactic has received a barrage of criticism, including the Twitter account of Bezos’ company, which is better known as Blue Origin, as they were accused of stretching the definition of “space” because their flights cannot travel beyond the Karman line (62 miles above Earth) that many, but not all, defined as the boundary between the Earth’s atmosphere and space.
The modern commercial space race has been dominated by billionaires. Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos is the world’s richest person, and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, the second-richest. Branson’s net worth, meanwhile, is about $6 billion. This space race has led some to view space as a new frontier for billionaires; others have argued that increased private sector involvement in space travel has accelerated technological advancements, saved NASA money, and has the long-term potential to open up space tourism to all who have been curious about the cosmos. The initial price of the Virgin Galactic company tickets cost $ 250,000. Bezos, for his part, auctioned off a seat on his next Blue Origin flight for $ 28 million.