Star Trekkin’: Richard Branson to usher in new era of space tourism with Virgin Galactic flight

The Virgin GalacticUnity22 Crew with Richard Branson in their blue space suits

Sir Richard Branson will usher in a new era of travel when he flies into space, the first ‘private’ astronaut aboard Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity.

The mission will be the twenty-second flight test for VSS Unity, and Virgin Galactic’s fourth crewed spaceflight. When it launches from Las Cruces, New Mexico, it will also be the first to carry a full crew of two pilots and four mission specialists in the cabin, including Branson, who will be testing the private astronaut experience. 

Branson’s mission is to focus on the cabin and customer experience, documenting the cabin environment, seat comfort, the weightless experience, and the no doubt amazing views of Earth that the spaceship will deliver as it travels 50 miles above the planet.

The ground-breaking trip is expected to take around 90 minutes.

For the first time, Virgin Galactic will share a global livestream of the spaceflight, which is scheduled to launch at 3.30pm UK time July 11, on Virgin Galactic’s various social channels, allowing everyone to participate virtually in the Unity 22 test flight – and get a look at the experience Virgin Galactic has been striving to create for wannabe astronauts. 

Branson will become the first billionaire in space, beating starry-eyed rivals Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk. Branson has reportedly undertaken the same training, preparation and flight as Virgin Galactic’s future astronauts. The Company says it will use his observations to enhance the journey for all future astronaut customers.

Branson will become the first billionaire in space, beating starry-eyed rivals Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk…

Virgin Galactic VMS Eve and SpaceShipTwo fly over the San Francisco Bay
VMS Eve and VMS Unity fly over the San Francisco Bay

Branson will be joined by mission specialists Beth Moses, Chief Astronaut Instructor at Virgin Galactic, Colin Bennett, Lead Operations Engineer at Virgin Galactic and Sirisha Bandla, Vice President of Government Affairs and Research Operations at Virgin Galactic.

Piloting the mission are Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci flying VSS Unity, and CJ Sturckow and Kelly Latimer flying VMS Eve. 

Sir Richard Branson said: “I truly believe that space belongs to all of us. After more than 16 years of research, engineering, and testing, Virgin Galactic stands at the vanguard of a new commercial space industry, which is set to open space to humankind and change the world for good. It’s one thing to have a dream of making space more accessible to all.

“It’s another for an incredible team to collectively turn that dream into reality. As part of a remarkable crew of mission specialists, I’m honoured to help validate the journey our future astronauts will undertake and ensure we deliver the unique customer experience people expect from Virgin.”

Tickets to ride Virgin Galactic, when commercial operations begin, are expected to cost somewhere between $300,000 and $400,000. Alternatively, you could book a trip about Virgin Voyages’ Valiant Lady for a little less.

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