Bad weather delays Richard Branson's flight to space by 90 minutes - GulfToday

Billionaire Richard Branson, Virgin crew return to Earth after historic trip to space


Branson congratulates the crew on board Virgin Galactic's passenger rocket plane VSS Unity after their ascent on Sunday. Reuters

Brash, pioneering Brit Sir Richard Branson finally made history on Sunday, by reaching the edge of space with his Virgin crew and returning safely back to Earth.

He is the first business baron to make the journey to space in a rocket ship, VSS Unity, built by the firm he founded.

After facing initial hiccups over the weather, Branson's space vehicle took off from the New Mexico desert on Sunday. He hopes the trip will give a solid fillip to space tourism.

Hollywood stars were among those who lapped up the 600 tickets sold to potential space tourists from 60 nations for prices hitting a cool quarter of a million dollars. The plane was scheduled to ascend for an hour to reach an altitude of 50,000 feet.

branson1Richard Branson poses next to George T. Whitesides (right), CEO of Virgin Galactic Holdings.

The unconventional Branson biked to the base and met his employees.

Among those in the crew are Indian American Sirisha Bandla, the vice president of government affairs at the company.

Branson is the daredevil persona who has been there done that. He has traversed oceans in sailboats and hot-air balloons. He even co-founded Virgin Records, much to the delight of music fans.

Not many know that he sold records in the classified pages of a student magazine 50 years ago.

branson2 Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic crew members enter the company's passenger rocket plane.

Branson is perhaps trying to upstage the other billionaire B, Jeff Bezos, better known as the Amazon baron. Bezos is gearing up to fly on his rocket ship, the New Shepard, later this month.

Branson, a week away from his 71st birthday, insists he and Bezos are friends and not rivals trying games of one-upmanship in space.

This is not to forget Tesla founder Elon Musk, whose SpaceX plans to send its first all-civilian crew (without him) into orbit in September.

The sparkling white spaceplane, VSS Unity, was scheduled to take off at around 1300 GMT on Sunday attached to the underside of the twin-fuselage carrier jet VMS Eve, named after Branson's mother.

plane111 Virgin Galactic's passenger rocket plane, the VSS Unity, is seen in its hangar in New Mexico.

With the flight, Branson seeks to usher in a new era in space tourism, eyeing commercial operations next year.

The space tourism market, according to one reckoning by a bank, is slated for hitting $3 billion annually by 2030.

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