The era of space tourism is officially ushered in. For the first time, a spacecraft for suborbital flight brought a complete crew to the edge of space this Sunday (11). Among them the billionaire Richard Branson, owner of the company Virgin Galactic, responsible for the company.
The entire adventure took place from Espaçoporto América in New Mexico (USA) and lasted about an hour. However, the stay in space was much shorter. The VSS Unity, as the spacecraft is called, began its autonomous flight after being released into the air from an aircraft at an altitude of approximately 15 km. Powered by the rocket engine, it climbed to 89 km, an altitude at which the earth’s atmosphere is practically zero – on the edge of space.
For about three minutes, between the engine being switched off and the ship beginning to fall back to earth, the two pilots Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci and the passengers (whom the company prefers to refer to as crew) Branson, Colin Bennett (engineer), Beth Moses (teacher) and Sirisha Bandla (Virgin Galactic Vice President) experienced weightlessness (a feeling of weightlessness) while admiring Earth from space.
Upon re-entry, Unity opened its mobile wing system to reduce speed and then landed as a glider. It was only the spacecraft’s fourth test flight into space and the first to carry six people and pave the way for transporting customers – something Virgin Galactic originally announced in 2010. There is a line of over 600 people who have already done it. Reservations, loan cards for $ 250,000.
Despite the colossal delay, Branson’s company was ahead of what really matters: the competition. Jeff Bezos, owner of Amazon and space company Blue Origin, is scheduled to fly July 20th. It will be the first crew of the New Shepard capsule to use a conventional missile system and fly slightly higher than Virgin Galactic and exceed an altitude of more than 100 km (what the International Aviation Federation arbitrarily considers the “limit” of space; in U.S., NASA, and Air Force prefer 50 miles).
There were tiny needle pricks from side to side. Richard Branson joked in an interview when asked if he was going to beat Jeff Bezos in nine days. “Jeff who?” She teased him. Blue Origin de Bezos tweeted a comparison chart between the two companies’ flight experiences on Friday (9), showing the New Shepard capsule’s large windows, altitude over 100 km, the presence of an exhaust system, low environmental impact and the ability to perform 15 successful flights (all unmanned), around 3 from Virgin Galactic.
Resentment? At this point there is competition for the market. With two competing companies both entering the operational phase, this month of July marks the moment when space tourism is no longer just an eccentric activity but has become a real business.
This column is published in Folha Corrida on Mondays.
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