The Tumultuous History of Virgin Galactic
Richard Branson’s rocket flew 53 miles above earth on Sunday, officially making him an astronaut. But does Virgin Galactic really have what it takes to travel to infinity, and beyond?
Last Sunday a British man made history by leading a team further than they have ever got before. No, we’re not talking about Harry Kane leading England to their first ever Euros final, but Richard Branson, the 70-year-old founder of Virgin Galactic, leading that company’s first ever manned flight to space.
After the flight in the shuttle SpaceShip Two Unity 22 on 11 July, Branson was photographed looking victorious at Spaceport America in New Mexico and called the hours-long trip the ”experience of a lifetime.” Presumably the only thing that would have made him happier would have been a handy Virgin Galactic stewardess whom he could lift aloft like a trophy.
Instead, he had to make do with becoming the first of the tech billionaire space obsessives to actually venture into the cold reaches of space itself – a significant step not only in the tech mogul race to dominate space travel, but in humankind’s relationship with space.
Even if you belong to the group that believes money is best spent on solving problems on earth instead of adventuring in space, a successful commercial flight ad astra has huge potential for capturing the world’s imagination (although perhaps not quite to the same degree as Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford et al).
Branson managed the feat after travelling 53 miles above the earth. But there is some controversy around whether he actually achieved space flight or not. While the US Federal Aviation Administration considers 50 miles above the earth to be the edge of space and awards astronaut wings to anyone who gets that far, the Kármán line – at 62 miles above the earth – is the internationally recognised threshold where space is said to begin.