Virgin Galactic reaches space for the first time

Private space travel has marked a significant milestone

Spending holidays outside the Earth might soon become a reality as Virgin Galactic has set a new precedent for private space travel.

As the first-ever crewed vehicle built for commercial passenger service, the company’s SpaceShipTwo has managed to reach the edge of space — ascending to the height of 82.7 km.

The spacecraft carried two pilots, as well as a mannequin named Annie representing future passengers, and four research experiments for NASA.

After a successful landing, the US government awarded the Virgin Galactic’s pilots the Astronaut Wings badge, since the frontier for the outer space is considered to be 80 km above the Earth’s surface. However, many agencies use the so-called Kármán Line — an altitude of 100 km above sea level — to mark where outer space begins.

Richard Branson, the billionaire, founder and owner of Virgin Galactic, considers the accomplishment to be a major breakthrough in the race with Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk to send the first private passengers to space.

“We started Virgin nearly 50 years ago dreaming big and loving a challenge. Today, as I stood among a truly remarkable group of people with our eyes on the stars, we saw our biggest dream and our toughest challenge to date fulfilled,” Branson commented on the historic flight.

“Today, for the first time in history, a crewed spaceship, built to carry private passengers, reached space. Today we completed our first revenue generating flight and our pilots earned their Commercial Astronaut Wings. Today, we have shown that Virgin Galactic really can open space to change the world for good,” he said.  

Branson launched the private space travel project in 2004, shortly after Bezos kicked off his Blue Origin and Musk his SpaceX. Since then he has been regularly promising to send private customers to space.

While both his competitors have managed to get their spacecraft higher than 82 km, they have never had humans on board.

Both Bezos and Musk said they aimed to send a piloted ship to space next year.