Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin Galactic promised a milestone year for the company – fully launching people including himself into space. The good news is he is making good on the promises with his first successful flight, carrying three people into space. Two pilots joined the space tourism company’s chief astronaut instructor Beth Moses.
Moses, who is also Virgin Galactic’s first female passenger, was listed as a crew member alongside pilots Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci. All three gain their astronaut wings to become only the 569th, 570th and 571st humans to ever travel into space.
The flight, which took off and landed in Mojave, California, travelled to an altitude of 55.9 miles and reached speeds of Mach 3.0, which is three times the speed of sound. That’s both the highest and fastest ever for a Virgin Galactic test flight.
Virgin said Moses’ experience on board the flight will help her gain a better understanding of a “customer cabin and spaceflight environment from the perspective of people in the back.” Moses’ onboard experience will be used to help prepare future passengers for what they can expect from the $250,000 tourist flights, when Virgin officially begins offering the trips into space.
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On its fifth powered flight, this is also the first time the VSS Unity vessel has carried three people on board. You can see the flight path in the graphic below:
As well as a passenger, the Unity carried some NASA-funded payloads for the test flight, with the agency saying “regular access to reduced-gravity lets researchers collect data needed to mature their technologies for use in deep space.”
Sir Richard Branson himself says he hopes to take his first trip on the VSS Unity by the end of the summer, something in the middle of the year.