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Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic complete successful space flight

Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic complete successful space flight

Virgin Galactic owner Richard Branson rocketed into space Sunday, an edge-of-the-seat sub-orbital test flight intended to demonstrate his company’s air-launched spaceplane is ready for passengers who can afford the ultimate thrill ride.

And it appeared to do just that, zooming to an altitude just above 50 miles and giving Branson and his five crewmates about three minutes of weightlessness and spectacular views of Earth before plunging back into the atmosphere for a spiraling descent to touchdown at Virgin’s New Mexico launch site.

“I have dreamt of this moment since I was a kid but honestly, nothing could prepare you for the view of Earth from space,” Branson, 70, said after landing, at a rare loss for words. “It was just magical. … I’m just taking it all in, it’s unreal.”

The flight effectively upstaged Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who plans a sub-orbital spaceflight of his own aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft on July 20 as the two companies compete for passengers in the emerging commercial space marketplace.

Bezos complimented Branson and his team after landing, posting a note to Instagram saying “congratulations on the flight. Can’t wait to join the club!”

Branson’s trip began in dramatic fashion as Virgin’s twin-fuselage carrier jet — with the VSS Unity rocket-powered spaceplane bolted under its wing — lifted away from the company’s Spaceport America launch site near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, at 8:40 a.m. local time (10:40 a.m. EDT).

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