The Virgin Galactic space plane Unity landed safely in New Mexico on Sunday morning after a trip meant to make human spaceflight seem unexceptional.
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The Virgin Galactic design already has an imperfect safety record. The company’s first space plane, the V.S.S. Enterprise, crashed during a test flight in 2014 when the co-pilot moved a lever too early during the flight, allowing the tail booms to rotate when they should have remained rigid. The Enterprise broke apart, and the co-pilot, Michael Alsbury, was killed. The pilot, Peter Siebold, survived after parachuting out of the plane.
The controls were redesigned so that the tail booms cannot be unlocked prematurely.
A seat on one of the company’s spaceships originally cost $200,000 . The company later raised the price to $250,000 . It then stopped sales after a crash during a test flight in 2014. When the company resumes sales later this year, the price will probably rise again, said Michael Colglazier, Virgin Galactic’s chief executive.
Three people paid $55 million each to Axiom Space in Houston to fly in SpaceX’s Crew Dragon to the International Space Station as soon as early next year.
But not all trajectories to space will involve six or seven figures. On Sunday, Mr. Branson announced that Virgin Galactic would give away two tickets to space as part of a sweepstakes initiative with the charitable fund-raising platform Omaze.
Sir Richard Branson, the billionaire entrepreneur who owns Virgin Galactic, boarded his rocket for its maiden space voyage, debuting private space tourism and beating Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos to the private space race.
The biggest perk of traveling to space is the view. Just past the boundary between space and Earth, passengers can catch a stunning glimpse of our planet juxtaposed against the wide unknown of space. The view is meant to be awe-inducing, and the experience even has its own name: the Overview Effect.
Another perk of these trips is that space tourists will feel a few minutes of microgravity, which is when gravity feels extremely weak. That will give them the chance to bounce around a spacecraft weightlessly before heading back to Earth.
A 2008 study that surveyed 5,000 flyers found that one in every 50 people said they met the love of their life on a flight.
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