Sir Richard Branson’s space tourism flight is a milestone – but out of reach for most people | US news
On Sunday evening there was at least one Englishman who had something to celebrate.
It will go down in the life story of Sir Richard Branson the day he was officially awarded the title of astronaut after his successful trip to the edge of space and back.
And when the live feed of the England game 5,000 miles away put a damper on the day for some, Sir Richard’s emotions about the performance of him and his crew were sky high.
Virgin Galactic’s 22nd test flight was the first to carry a full payload of passengers, all of them senior executives, and was a key moment in bringing the idea of space tourism to the widest possible audience.
It should also reassure the hundreds who have already laid up a quarter of a million to secure a seat in the future that this is possible. Many have waited a long time for the trip.
It is now likely that as the New Year begins, Virgin will begin taking paying passengers to the edge of space and giving them the opportunity to experience what Sir Richard did.
“Indescribably good” was the only way with which the billionaire astronaut was able to reproduce the views and the feeling of weightlessness 80 kilometers above the surface of the earth.
The excitement about a safe and successful mission was certainly contagious and this was undoubtedly a milestone in the private space race.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk was there to experience history – Sir Richard said he stumbled upon his rival in his kitchen at 3 a.m. – and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos sent his congratulations.
You and a number of other companies are encouraged by the success of this mission, Sir Richard told me. They all believe there are enough paying passengers to get around.
But even with the raffle Sir Richard announced for ordinary people to potentially win a seat on a future flight, the prospect is financially unattainable for most people in the world.
Upon landing, Sir Richard talked about future astronauts not being restricted by their gender, race, or background, but honestly, that day still seems a long way off.
Perhaps some of the students who were there to see the event will see it in their lifetime, but it will require a tremendous skill upgrade. Sir Richard had annoyed the children with the story of nearly bringing home an alien.
For such a accomplished showman, a man who disguised himself as a bride for a PR gag and who, according to his own assessment, has survived 76 near-death experiences in his life, there could hardly have been anything more satisfying than the silky smooth Sunday performance in his 70 years.
If his granddaughter’s proud announcement that “Dad has flown to the moon” was a little bogus, one can forgive the family’s euphoria.
And at least one family member will definitely not follow him into space. “My wife, Joan, is the only person in the world who doesn’t want to leave,” he told me.