Richard Branson rockets to edge of space in Virgin Galactic passenger plane – here’s how people reacted
AFP via Getty Images

Sir Richard Branson has flown to the edge of space aboard Virgin Galactic’s first fully crewed flight.

The launch has been hailed a “landmark moment” for the billionaire businessman, as well as the whole commercial space industry.

Take-off had been delayed by about 90 minutes due to the weather overnight at Spaceport America in New Mexico, US.

But video streamed live online showed the Virgin Galactic in the air at about 3.45pm UK time, and the aircraft had reached 40,000 feet by 4pm.

The spacecraft was carried up into the atmosphere by its mothership before being released so it could power up to highs of 250,000 feet. Sir Richard and his crew reached speeds of Mach 3 on their way to the edge of space.

After a short spell during which they experienced weightlessness, the craft then pointed downwards and made its way back to the ground, touching down around 4.40pm.

Here’s how take-off looked:

And the moment the carrier plane dropped the rocket-powered aircraft, carrying Sir Richard...

And touch-down..

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

He 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. Elon Musk owns rival exploration company SpaceX.

On the ground, viewers were blown away by what they were watching:

Although some saw the billionaire space race a little differently...

And others weren’t too happy with the coverage of the launch, which some viewers felt focussed too much on the studio and not enough on the actual take-off:

Still, plenty of people sent their congratulations to Sir Richard and Virgin Galactic as they returned to earth.

Over to you now, Jeff and Elon...

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