(CBS/ABC) – Mission accomplished.
Billionaire Sir Richard Branson flew to the lower edge of space and back to planet Earth on Sunday in the first fully crewed flight from his private space tourism firm Virgin Galactic.
Branson rocketed into space Sunday morning for a sub-orbital test flight to space intended to demonstrate his company’s air-launched spaceplane is ready for passengers who can afford the ultimate thrill ride.
And it appeared to do just that, zooming to an altitude just above 50 miles and giving Branson and his five crewmates about three minutes of weightlessness and spectacular views of Earth before plunging back into the atmosphere for a spiraling descent to touchdown at Virgin’s New Mexico launch site.
The flight effectively upstaged Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who plans a sub-orbital spaceflight of his own aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft on July 20, and gave Branson billionaire bragging rights as he and Bezos compete for passengers in the emerging commercial space marketplace.
NASA congratulated Branson and his crew on this historic accomplishment.