Experience of a lifetime: Richard Branson says after a few minutes of space flight
New Delhi : British billionaire Richard Branson went into the space on Sunday on a Virgin Galactic vessel, he called is a "experience of a lifetime"; he claimed that this will usher in an era of lucrative space tourism.
"Congratulations to all our wonderful team at Virgin Galactic for 17 years of hard, hard work to get us this far," he said during a live feed as the VSS Unity spaceship glided back to Spaceport America in New Mexico.
The voyage reached a peak altitude of around 53 miles (85 kilometers) - beyond the boundary of space, according to the United States. The passengers will be allowed to experience weightlessness and admire the Earth's curvature.
The trip proceeded without drama, and touchdown occurred at around 9:40 am Mountain Time (1540 GMT), about an hour after take-off.
With the success of the flight, Branson became the first billionaire to experience the real space, he has beaten fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos in the race to be the first tycoon to cross the final frontier in a ship built by a company he founded.
Earlier, a massive carrier plane took off and ascended to 50,000 feet before dropping VSS Unity to complete the rest of the flight using its rocket-powered engine.
The voyage had two pilots and four passengers, including Branson during the flight. A smiling Branson hugged loved ones after the trip.
"It's a beautiful day to go to space," the brash Brit wrote in a tweet earlier where he posted a video of himself biking to the base and meeting with his crewmates, all Virgin employees.
He also posted a picture of himself standing in a kitchen with SpaceX boss Elon Musk, who'd come to show his support.
Branson's official role is to evaluate the private astronaut experience to enhance the journey for future clients.