Virgin Galactic has sent its first passenger into space
I call next!
Virgin Galactic wants everyone to sample the wonders of space. The space tourism venture sent its VSS Unity space plane up into space back in December as a trial run with just the two astronauts/pilots in it, which was successful. What a stocking stuffer for Christmas, eh?
Today marks the first successful flight with a passenger, as Virgin Galactic blasted off into the near reaches of space with a third person aboard.
That passenger was Beth Moses, the chief astronaut instructor at Virgin Galactic, so while she’s not exactly a member of the public, she’s the first non-pilot to leave the atmosphere behind in one of Virgin Galactic’s space planes (yes, I’ll say that as many times as I want). SPACE PLAAAAAAANES. This successful launch makes Virgin Galactic the owner of the only two launched-from-the-USA spaceflights since the last Space Shuttle flight in 2011.
Check out the flight from December
More about today’s flight
Today’s flight also went higher than the December test run, climbing to a total of 55.85 miles from sea level. That’s nearly 4.5 miles more than back in December when they conservatively just went past the mark that many (but not all) consider as the start of space. The flight, as always, started by the VSS Unity being hoisted to an altitude of 45,000 feet by its carrier aircraft, WhiteKnight Two. The space plane reached a top speed of three times the speed of sound, a new record for Virgin Galactic’s efforts.
Still, the real aim of this flight was to test the extra weight of a third person, who will eventually be a paying space tourist. I hope they remember their towel. Moses will be the person responsible for preparing future tourists before their jaunt out of the atmosphere so it was vital she understood the ride from their perspective.
Virgin Galactic also carried a bunch of research payloads for NASA, since the US doesn’t appear to be sending its own stuff into space anymore. There was also extra weight added to simulate the payload of a full crew once the space tourism business goes into full effect.
This was the fifth powered test of the VSS Unity, with more flights planned throughout this year. Future commercial flights will operate from its new location in New Mexico, at the Spaceport America complex.
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