Richard Branson: Business Mogul, Industry Leader, Spaceman?

Source: The Guardian

Virgin Group of Companies owner and ground-breaking executive Richard Branson has added another entry to his colorful resume—spaceman. This feat comes after he and an assigned crew for Virgin Galactic completed a suborbital test flight on Sunday as part of preliminary works to join the privatized race into space. 

The sub-orbital trip began as Virgin’s twin-fuselage carrier jet named VSS Unity took off from the company’s spaceport and launch site near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. The launch happened at 8:40 AM local time and put the seventy-year-old Mr. Branson on a concise list of billionaire CEOs to join the space race hands-on.

“I have dreamt of this moment since I was a kid, but honestly, nothing could prepare you for the view of Earth from space,” shared Branson after his jet landed safely. “It was just magical. I’m just taking it all in; it’s unreal.”

Virgin Galactic mounted and launched the test flight to demonstrate its air-launched space plane and discover whether it would be ready for passengers looking for an ultimate thrill outside the bounds of the Earth’s gravitational pull. The plane flew just above fifty miles and gave Richard Branson and the crew over three minutes of weightlessness on top of a majestic view of the Earth’s horizon from one of the highest vantage points known to man. After the flight test, the spacecraft safely returned to Virgin’s New Mexico launch site, completing a successful flight. 

Sir Richard Branson is an English magnate, investor, book author who started the Virgin Group, which now controls over four hundred companies across various fields. He showed entrepreneurial prowess from a young age and started his first business venture at sixteen years old, a magazine called Student. In 1970, Branson would begin a mail-order record business that would later become Virgin Records. He also started Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Rail Group, Virgin Trains, and many other ventures. 

The latest feat for the group of companies is the founding of Virgin Galactic, an effort to join companies like Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Amazon to privatize space travel. The company started back in 2004 and set up a base in Mojave Air and Space Port in California with a lofty goal of taking the first steps into space tourism.

By entering the 86-kilometer or 53-mile point above sea level, Richard Branson reached the edge of space. Joining him on the VSS Unity on July 11, 2021, was Beth Moses, Sirisha Bandla, and Colin Bennett. The feat has made Sir Richard the first-ever billionaire and owner of a space company to ever travel to the edge of space. 

“To all you kids down there, I was once a child with a dream looking up to the stars,” Branson said in a video. “Now I’m an adult, in a spaceship with lots of other wonderful adults, looking down to our beautiful, beautiful Earth.”

Virgin Galactic is on a mission to give anyone the chance to experience space by becoming one of the pioneering space tourism companies in history. The flight of VSS Unity is one bold and significant step into that future.