Published on : Friday, December 14, 2018
Virgin Galactic launched a spacecraft more than 50 miles high, reaching the Federal Aviation Administration & definition of space and accomplishing the elusive goal for the company founded by Richard Branson that one day wants to fly tourists through the atmosphere.
Though it did not reach orbit, the flight was the first launch of a spacecraft from United States soil with humans on board to reach the edge of space since the Space Shuttle was retired in 2011. And it effectively opens a new era in human spaceflight, one where companies are working to end governments & long held monopoly on space, aiming to push farther faster.
Though it just scratched the lowest edge of where many believe space begins, the launch had huge implications for a growing industry aiming to fly civilians on a regular basis. The flight was bold and risky, and after a fatal crash four years ago, reminiscent in its daring of a bygone era of human spaceflight.
It comes at a time when NASA is still forced to rely on Russia to fly its astronauts to orbit and faces criticism that its aversion to risk has replaced the youthful audacity that helped it put men on the moon.
Nearly 700 people have paid $250,000 to Virgin Galactic for its suborbital joyrides -more than the 560 or so people who have ever been to space. Eventually, the company wants to fly six passengers at a time. The FAA has plans to formally honour the pilots of Thursday & flight by awarding them commercial astronaut wings at a ceremony in Washington next year.