Sir Richard Branson, the British business entrepeneur, made a dream come true. He became an astronaut, as a passenger on a suborbital flight in a Virgin Galactic vessel he helped fund. Wearing a flight suit looking like something straight out of a science fiction movie, he spent five minutes, 41 seconds on the edge of space, and four and a half minutes of that in zero G. Elon Musk hopes to fly to Mars; Jeff Bezos wants to go to the Moon. Branson beat them both to space.

SpaceShipTwo, a winged plane with a single rocket motor, took a crew of 6 up 53.5 miles or 86.1 kilometers. It was attached to its mothership, WhiteKnightTwo, for roughly 45 minutes. When SpaceShipTwo detached from its mothership it dropped momentarily, then swooped upward, permitting the passenger to feel a change in gravity.

The SpaceShipTwo took off from New Mexico, Sunday, July 11, 2021. In addition to Sir Richard Branson, the passengers included Virgin Galactic astronaut trainer Beth Moses, flight engineer Colin Bennett and Sirisha Bandla, the company’s vice president of government affairs and research operations. The pilots were Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci.

“The passengers experienced up to three Gs of force from the burst of extreme acceleration and watched the blue sky fade into the star-speckled darkness of outer space. At the top of the flight path, more than 50 miles high, the vehicle was suspended in weightlessness for a few minutes, allowing the passengers to enjoy panoramic views of the Earth and space as SpaceShipTwo flipped onto its belly,” reported Reuters.

“The spacecraft eventually glided back to Earth, seemingly landing like any other commercial or military aircraft would on the runway,” said the Santa Fe New Mexican. This should reduce the price of future flights. Galactic Virgin is planning to charge “$250,000 per ticket for the chance to experience weightlessness and the force of supersonic flight and to witness spectacular views of Earth from space.”

Sir Richard announced “ahead of Sunday’s test flight that he was anxious to join the pilots and test engineers who’ve already flown on SpaceShipTwo because he felt it demonstrated a crucial vote of confidence. You’ve got to remember that Virgin Galactic has people on every spaceflight.The fact that I’m willing to fly with those people shows confidence,” Branson told CNN Business’ Rachel Crane earlier this month. “I think the least the founder of the company can do is go up there and fly with his people.”

Robert A. Heinlein’s Delos D. Harriman, the hero of The Man who Sold the Moon, and Requiem, would be proud. On the 20th of July, the anniversary of when humankind first set foot on the Moon, Sir Richard’s business rival, Jeff Bozos, is scheduled to go into space himself on his own Blue Origin spacecraft.

As Joss Whedon once said, “We have done the impossible and that makes us mighty.” Just think, SciFi.radio fans, the first powered flight was undertaken by Orville Wright just 118 years ago. Fifty-two years ago, we walked on the Moon. And now, now we have space tourism – only for the rich, true, but we have it. Did you ever expect to see such a thing in your lifetime?

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Susan Macdonald
Susan Macdonald

Susan Macdonald is the author of the children’s book “R is for Renaissance Faire”, as well as short stories in “Alternative Truths”, “Swords and Sorceress #30”, “Supernatural Colorado”, “Barbarian Crowns”, “Cat Tails””Under Western Stars”, and “Knee-High Drummond and the Durango Kid”. Her articles have appeared on SCIFI.radio’s web site, in The Inquisitr, and in The Millington Star. She enjoys Renaissance Faires (see book above), science fiction conventions,  Highland Games, and Native American pow-wows.