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He's a Rocketman: Branson flies to edge of space and back

Sir Richard Branson has beaten Jeff Bezos in the billionaire boys club race to space, hailing it an "experience of a lifetime".

Sir Richard Branson has beaten Jeff Bezos in the billionaire boys club race to space, hailing it an “experience of a lifetime”.

Virgin Galactic‘s first fully crewed flight took off on Sunday afternoon, 11 July.

The businessman smiled as he headed back to the planet surface after feeling the thrill of weightlessness for several minutes this weekend.

The launch was hailed a “landmark moment” for Branson, as well as the whole commercial space industry.

Sir Richard and his crew reached speeds of Mach 3 on their way to the edge of space.

The live video, which was streamed online, showed the spacecraft being carried up into the atmosphere by its mothership before being released so it could power up to highs of 250,000 feet.

After a short spell (4 minutes) during which they experienced weightlessness, the craft then pointed downwards and made its way back to the ground.

On the return flight, Sir Richard hailed the “experience of a lifetime” and the “hard, hard work” that went into the flight.

Out on the runway, he was greeted with cheers and hugs as he walked back to the spaceport.

Later, he told a press conference: “Like most kids I have dreamt of this moment since I was a kid but honestly nothing could prepare you for the view of Earth from space.

“The whole thing was just magical.”

He also paid tribute to scientist Stephen Hawking, who he said it was an “honour” to know.

Virgin Galactic
Unity22 crew. Image: Virgin Galactic

Sir Richard is the first owner-astronaut to take part in a mission, beating Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who plans to reach space in his own rocket through his Blue Origin company.

On the ground, Michael Colglazier, chief executive of Virgin Galactic, said: “This is a landmark moment for Virgin Galactic.

“It’s a landmark moment for the new commercial space industry and it certainly is a landmark moment for our founder Richard Branson.”

Virgin Galactic
Image: Virgin Galactic

He said the company’s work on Sunday was dedicated to “opening up space to all”.

“All” of course being those who can afford $A334,000 for a spaceflight on Virgin Galactic, which includes four minutes of zero gravity.

Do you think space tourism will take off? Would you like to travel to space? Or do you think the race to space is another game that can only be played between the super rich? Let us know what you think, email [email protected].

Source: AAP