Virgin Galactic’s first space tourists crossed the frontiers of outer space
Virgin Galactic’s first space tourists are on their way, He writes Watchman. Galactic 02 took off from Spaceport America in New Mexico around 9 a.m. local time, carrying three passengers in addition to the three crew.
The VSS Unity spacecraft has soared to an altitude of 88.51 kilometers, to the edge of outer space. Staying there for a few minutes, passengers can admire the Earth and experience weightlessness for a short time.
Both NASA and the US Air Force set the boundary of space at 80 kilometers, so anyone beyond that can be considered an astronaut. This is not a completely standardized site, because some consider the Karman line marked at 100 kilometers to be the limit of space.
Two of the three passengers, Keisha Schaff and her daughter Anastasia Myers from Antigua and Barbuda, were able to take part in the spaceflight with the help of a fundraiser. The third rider was John Goodwin, who competed in the 1972 Munich Olympics as a slalom kayaker in British colours.
Virgin Galactic officially began commercial spaceflight in late June, but by then the three passengers, two Italian Air Force officers and an Italian flight engineer, were also collecting biometric data, measuring cognitive performance and recording how certain liquids and solids mix in microgravity conditions.
Richard Branson’s company began operations in 2004, but while its competitors, such as Blue Origin or SpaceX, have already completed commercial flights, Virgin Galactic only started doing so this summer.
Branson and five other Virgin Galactic employees were already at an altitude of 80 kilometers, and Unity made a test flight in 2021. At that time, Virgin Galactic had planned regular commercial flights from 2022, but there were several obstacles in the way. The company came under investigation because it deviated from the specified route in the airspace during the test flight, so regulatory authorities banned the flights for 11 weeks. Later laboratory tests showed that the strength of some of the materials used in the vehicles did not reach the required limits, which made it necessary to modernize the fleet.
According to Virgin Galactic’s plans, starting in August, space passengers will be flown every month. There is plenty to choose from, because according to Branson, 800 people have already bought tickets. Space flight is not a cheap pleasure, a ticket costs 250-450 thousand dollars (84-150 million forints).
The Virgin Galactic program itself began in 2004, but it didn’t deliver on its promises at the time, and in 2014, after one of its test planes collapsed in the air, it seemed even more impossible.