Ever imagined someone can travel to space in their own spacecraft?
Billionaire Richard Branson blasted into space high above the New Mexico desert Sunday, becoming the first person to do so aboard his own spacecraft. Branson and five employees of his company, Virgin Galactic, flew aboard the winged rocket ship VSS Unity for the suborbital flight.
Unity was strapped to a specially designed aircraft, called Mothership Eve, and the pair took off shortly after 8:30 a.m. MDT (10:30 a.m. EDT). Eve flew Unity to about 46,000 feet. There it was released and its rockets fired to push it into space.
“It’s a beautiful day to go to space,” Branson tweeted Sunday morning.
The 70-year-old Branson wasn’t supposed to fly into space until later this year.
He jumped on this earlier flight after fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos said he plans to go into space on July 20 aboard his Blue Origin rocket, the Associated Press reported. Bezos and Branson are competing to fly tourists willing to drop hundreds of thousands of dollars into space.
Virgin Galactic plans to start flying customers next year.
The Unity rocket plane has a maximum altitude of about 55 miles. Once there, passengers experienced three to four minutes of weightlessness. The ship then glided to a runway landing back near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, at 9:39 a.m. MDT (11:39 a.m. EDT), about 15 minutes after being released by the mothership.