Sir Richard Branson, the billionaire business mogul with a flair for adventure, took his most daring trip yet on Sunday morning when he flew to the edge of space aboard a Virgin Galactic ship for the first time.
Branson, along with five other team members, boarded the VSS Unity spacecraft around dawn to embark on the company's first fully crewed flight test, a mission dubbed "Unity 22."
The group took off from the company's spaceport in Sierra County, New Mexico, shortly before 8:00 a.m. local time, to start the approximately 60-minute journey to and from suborbital space. The flight was live-streamed from the company's website and across their various social media channels.
Mothership Aircraft VMS Eve, named after Branson's mother, first carried spacecraft VSS Unity to the appropriate altitude of about 50,000 ft. Unity then detached and fired its engine, eventually bringing the astronauts over 50 miles above the ground, which NASA deems as the edge of space.
While still descending, Branson issued a statement to those following along. "Now I'm looking down at our beautiful spaceport. Congratulations to everybody for creating such a beautiful, beautiful place," he said. "Congratulations to all of our team at Virgin Galactic for 17 years of hard, hard work to get us this far."
The launch helps bring Virgin Galactic ever closer to opening their services for paying customers, a vision Branson has had since he founded the company in 2004. They hope to offer trips aboard their spaceplanes as early as 2022, Julia Hunter, Senior Vice President at Virgin Galactic, confirmed to press the day before the flight.