Newsday, Virgin Galactic rockets to the edge of space

Newsday, Virgin Galactic rockets to the edge of space

Newsday, Virgin Galactic rockets to the edge of space

Virgin Galactic took one giant leap yesterday as two test pilots flew its VSS Unity passenger rocket-ship to the edge of space for the first time. Though Branson has stated that he doesn't consider the achievement to be a "race" between his Virgin Galactic, Elon Musk's SpaceX and Jeff Bezos Blue Origin all of whom seek the same goal of commercial space tourism, it looks increasingly apparent that Virgin Galactic will in fact be the first company to achieve that goal.

The British entrepreneur applauded and cheered as SpaceShipTwo, VSS Unity touched back down at the Mojave test centre in California.

VSS Unity, a SpaceShipTwo-class space plane, takes in the view.

The spacecraft was piloted by Mark Stucky and former NASA astronaut Frederick "CJ" Sturckow.

The spaceship reentered the atmosphere at 2.5 times the speed of sound and landed safely a few minutes later. A 90-minute flight costs $250,000. The company received an abundance of criticism focused on whether the danger of space tourism made the rewards worthwhile, but after following recommendations set forth by the National Transportation Safety Board's report on the incident along with further design and safety enhancements, they forged ahead to make today's event a reality. In addition to the pilots, the spaceship carried four NASA research payloads and a mannequin named Annie.

The parent company of Virgin Galactic (Virgin) has another space-based venture in its wings: Virgin Orbit. Virgin Galactic officials say recent research favors the lower number. Blue Origin will use the more traditional method of spacecraft attached to a rocket launched from the ground.

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