Experience of a lifetime: Richard Branson after his spaceflight
- Richard Branson became the first billionaire to flew to space on Sunday
- Branson and five others were on the successful debut Virgin Galactic space flight that took off from New Mexico on Sunday
- The British billionaire said he dreamt of this moment since he was a kid
Richard Branson, British billionaire who flew to space on Sunday aboard a Virgin Galactic vessel, has described it as "experience of a lifetime". Branson and five others were first ones on a successful suborbital test flight from the US state of New Mexico.
The mission's success allowed the swashbuckling septuagenarian to one-up fellow tycoon Jeff Bezos -- who owns space company Blue Origin and is set to launch on July 20 -- in the race to the final frontier.
Branson said he dreamt of this moment since he was a kid, but honestly nothing could prepare you for the view of Earth from space.
Branson, three fellow passengers and two pilots (all Virgin employees) breached the US-recognized boundary of space, reaching an altitude of 53.5 miles (86 kilometers) and experiencing weightlessness for a few minutes aboard the VSS Unity. The spaceplane then lowered its wings and glided down to the ground at around 9:40 am Mountain Time (1540 GMT), about an hour after it had taken off attached to the belly of a massive carrier plane, which ascended 10 miles (15 kilometers) before dropping its payload.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk came to watch the flight and tweeted, "Congratulations, beautiful flight!" NASA also congratulated the team, calling the flight "spectacular, indeed."
Branson has now unveiled a Willy Wonka-esque competition for space enthusiasts to win two free tickets on Virgin Galactic flights through the website Omaze.
Sunday's flight left from Spaceport America, a huge base built in the Jornada del Muerto desert, around 20 miles southeast of the nearest town, Truth or Consequences. Financed largely by the state of New Mexico, Virgin Galactic is the principal tenant.
Blue Origin posted an infographic Friday boasting the ways in which the experience it offers is superior. The principal point: New Shepard climbs up to more than 60 miles in altitude, thus exceeding what is called the Karman line, the frontier of space according to international convention.
Bezos posted a photo of Unity on his Instagram page after Branson's trip, offering his congratulations." Can't wait to join the club!" he wrote.