British billionaire Richard Branson landed safely in New Mexico on Sunday after spending a few minutes on the edge of space aboard a Virgin Galactic ship, a journey he had always dreamed of and which marks a turning point for space tourism.
VSS Unity, which also carried two pilots and three other passengers, touched down on a runway at Spaceport America Base in New Mexico at approximately 9:40 a.m. local (3:40 p.m. GMT).
Richard Branson who, while still aboard the descending vessel to Earth, described a “once in a lifetime experience”, is the first billionaire to have made the trip to space in a craft developed by a company he himself founded, defeating Jeff Bezos who is due to rob him on July 20.
At some 15 kilometers high, the spacecraft detached from its carrier plane and began a supersonic ascent, exceeding 80 km in altitude – the height set in the United States for the frontier of space.
Once the engine was off, the passengers were able to get away from their seats to float for a few minutes in zero gravity, and admire the curvature of the Earth from one of the cabin’s 12 portholes. After a peak at about 90 km altitude, the ship came down again while hovering.