WASHINGTON, BM – Today, July 11, 2021, at 9 a.m., EDT begins the era of private space tourism with the flights of the Virgin Galactic VSS Unity spacecraft and billionaire Richard Branson on board. A crew of six astronauts will take off from New Mexico.
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Co-pilot Dave Mackay and his co-pilot Michael Masucci (this is his second space flight) will pilot VSS Unity and launch Richard Branson, Beth Moses, Virgin Galactic’s chief astronaut instructor; Colin Bennett, Virgin Galactic lead operations engineer; and Sirisha Bandla, Virgin Galactic researcher.
“Astronaut 001” is the code name of Richard Branson with which he wants to identify himself as the first space tourist in human history, but with the ship VSS Unity. “As the founder of Virgin Galactic, I am extremely proud to have this incredible VSS Unity space crew on my side. I have always been a dreamer. My mother told me never to give up and strive for the stars. This July is our dream. It’s becoming a reality and we’re very excited to share this moment with you. But when we get back to Earth, I’m going to announce something very exciting that will allow many more people to become astronauts. Because space belongs to all of us,” billionaire Richard Branson said in the presentation video of the flight.
The last little over 12 months have proved crucial in the development of the space industry, and are likely to change our minds about space flight. It all started on May 30, 2020, when the private space company of billionaire Elon Musk launched the first private space flight to the International Space Station with two astronauts on board – Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken and the Crew Dragon spacecraft. The success was twofold, as Elon Musk showed that the booster could successfully return to Earth and land, paving the way for reusable carriers.
Today, Richard Branson will try to be the first American civilian to visit outer space. But its success can be challenged by another American billionaire – Jeff Bezos and his space company Blue Origin.
Blue Origin refuses to recognize this space flight attempt because Unity will not cross the Carman line. This is the limit of 100 km above the earth’s surface, beyond which space begins. According to the International Aviation Federation, at such altitudes, the first space speed (7.91 km / s) is already needed to create lift. According to NASA, space starts even higher – at 122 km, because this is the limit at which space shuttles crossed when returning to aerodynamic maneuvering, ie. flight based on the Earth’s atmosphere. In this sense, there will be no space flight for the Bezos team today.
Two billionaires have already been in space, but with a Russian state-owned company, Charles Shimoni of Hungary (2007) and Guy Laliberte of Canada (2009), one of the founders of Cirque du Soleil, spent several days aboard The International Space Station.
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