Richard Branson’s official role during the flight : testing and evaluating the experience of his future customers.
The eccentric 70-year-old billionaire described it as a “once-in-a-lifetime experience” and a turning point for space tourism. Britain’s Richard Branson landed safely in New Mexico on Sunday 11 July after flying into space. His VSS Unity spacecraft, which also carried two pilots and three other passengers, touched down on a runway at Spaceport America at around 5.40pm (Paris time).
Richard Branson is the first billionaire to make the trip in a craft developed by a company he founded, beating out Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who is due to fly on 20 July. His official role was to test and evaluate the experience for future customers of his company.
A few minutes of weightlessness
Another rival billionaire, SpaceX boss Elon Musk, was on hand on Sunday to witness the event.
At a height of some 15 kilometres, the spacecraft detached from its carrier aircraft and began a supersonic ascent to an altitude of more than 80 km, the height set in the United States for the space frontier.
Once the engine was shut down, the passengers were able to detach from their seats and float for a few minutes in weightlessness, admiring the curvature of the Earth from one of the 12 windows in the cabin. After peaking at an altitude of about 90 km, the spacecraft glided back down.