Richard Branson finally got his trip into space on Sunday.
It’s been a very long wait for Mr. Branson, the disrespectful 70-year-old British billionaire who runs a galaxy of Virgin businesses. In 2004, he founded Virgin Galactic to bring adventurous tourists to the edge of space and back in rocket-powered aircraft.
At the time, he thought the commercial service would begin in two to three years. Instead, almost 17 years have passed. Virgin Galactic says there are three more test flights to be done, including the one on Sunday, before it can be ready for paying passengers.
Cars drove Mr. Branson and his crew members to the plane on Sunday, and the flight took off from Spaceport America in New Mexico, about 180 miles south of Albuquerque, at about 10:40 a.m. east on Sunday morning.
The spacecraft separated from the carrier at around 11:25 a.m. and ignited its engine for about 60 seconds, sending Mr. Branson and the crew into space. Video recordings from the live stream showed him and the crew in weightlessness.
Minutes later, the plane began gliding back to Earth and soon landed safely on the spaceport runway. Mr. Branson spoke into a camera in the aircraft’s cabin while gliding, calling it “an experience of a lifetime”.
More than an hour later, a dizzy Mr. Branson and his comrades took the stage.
“The whole thing was magical,” he said.
Chris Hadfield, the Canadian astronaut whose performance of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” from the space station went viral a few years ago, then pinned wings on the flight suits of the crew members they officially refer to as astronauts.