Richard Branson flies into suborbital space on Virgin Galactic's `Unity 22'
13 July 2021
British Billionaire Richard Branson and a crew of five on Sunday created history when they soared more than 80 kilimetres (50 miles) above the New Mexico desert aboard a Virgin Galactic rocket plane and safely returned in the vehicle, in the first fully crewed test flight to space.
Aeronautical engineer Sirisha Bandla also became the third Indian-origin woman to fly into space when she joined British billionaire Richard Branson on Virgin Galactic's first fully crewed suborbital test flight from New Mexico.Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity, as the spaceplane is called, took off for the 1.5-hour mission above New Mexico following a 90-minute delay due to bad weather.
Virgin Galactic’s “Unity 22” also became the first fully crewed spaceflight with the crew carrying out investigations - a symbolic milestone for a venture that Branson started 17 years ago.
Sirisha Bandla, vice president of government affairs and research operations at Virgin Galactic, will operate the experiment on the “Unity 22” flight on behalf of co-investigators Dr Robert Ferl and Dr Anna-Lisa Paul from the University of Florida in Gainesville. Bandla will activate three plant-filled tubes to release a preservative at critical data-collection stages during the flight: at 1 g before the rocket boost, just before entering microgravity, and after the conclusion of microgravity.
The spacecraft carried three Kennedy Space Center Fixation Tubes (KFTs) containing Arabidopsis thaliana plants. Virgin Galactic’s Sirisha Bandla activated the tubes to release a preservative that capture the plants’ biochemistry at specific points during transitions into and out of microgravity, while co-investigators from the University of Florida will conduct gene expression analyses on the plants in the weeks following the flight.
While the university researchers have flown similar experiments supported by NASA's Flight Opportunities programme on suborbital flights, data collected during the Unity 22 flight will provide a first look at human-tended payloads on SpaceShipTwo.
Branson and the 5 crew were honoured with wings of an astronaut after they landed back at the space port safely.
“We want to turn the next generation of dreamers into the astronauts of today and tomorrow, Branson said after the flight. “Honestly, nothing can prepare you for the view from space, “ he added.
The Virgin Galactic CEO paid odes to Stephen Hawking, who named the spaceship 'Unity'. He also congratulated Virgin Galactic team from space.
Virgin Galactic Space flight is creating new history for mankind and future to reach in short period of time any corner of world. The space race that used to be between superpowers, is now between the super-rich and everyone else.
Last month, Jeff Bezos announced that soon after leaving behind the role of CEO of Amazon, he’d be taking a short leave of the Earth, too.
Bezos will be taking a seat on his own space shuttle, New Shepard, on 20 July. He has already paid for it by starting the aerospace company, Blue Origin, that will bring him into outer space. Though he’s set to achieve his boyhood dream, he won’t be the first billionaire who has funded his own launch of a few fleeting moments in space.
Another billionaire waiting for his wings is Elon Musk who hopes to make it aboard his SpaceX Dragon.