Virgin Galactic’s tourism spaceship reached the boundary of space for the first time ever Thursday, marking one step closer to achieving commercial space tourism.
According to The Associated Press, Virgin Galactic’s rocket ship reached a height of 51 miles above California’s Mojave Desert before gliding on its descent to an awaiting runway just a few minutes later.
Mission official Enrico Palermo called the test a success and Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson indicated there will be additional test flights. Before paying customers travel in the six-passenger rocket, though, Branson wants to experience the journey himself.
“I believe that sometime in the second half of next year that we will start being able to put regular people up into space,” Branson said Thursday following the successful test.
Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides said the company will review the data from the test flight and formulate a plan for the next step once the numbers are crunched. The rocket was flown to a height of 43,000 feet on a special jet and was released before igniting its rocket engine and reaching Mach 2.9.
In total, over 600 people have committed up to $250,000 for rides that include several minutes of weightlessness and a view of the Earth far below. Not only will the rocket act as a tourism vehicle, but NASA was also conducting science experiments on the test flight.
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