The 70-year-old British billionaire reached space nine days before Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ planned flight. But Bezos’ company said Branson was simply not flying high enough.
British businessman Richard Branson has gone where no billionaire has gone before by reaching space on board a Virgin Galactic vessel on Sunday.
The winged rocket ship took off at around 1440 UTC after its initial start time was pushed back due to bad weather at its New Mexico launchpad.
The space plane detached from the mother ship at an altitude of about 8 miles (13 kilometers) and fired its engine. It reached the edge of space at about 53 miles (88 kilometers) up.
The crew successfully landed after an hour-long trip.
Branson was joined by two pilots, Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci, as well as Beth Moses, Virgin Galactic’s chief astronaut instructor, lead operations engineer Colin Bennett, and Sirisha Bandla, a research operations and government affairs vice president.
What did Branson say?
“Welcome to the dawn of a new space age,” Branson said on Twitter, with a photo from inside his space ship.
Branson told crowds at the launchpad after his trip that after 17 years of work he finally got to enjoy testing “the customer experience.” His company plans to start commercial operations next year.
In a short video released on Twitter prior to the flight, Branson said his goal was “to turn the dream of space travel into a reality — for my grandchildren, for your grandchildren, for everyone.”