9:52 AM PDT, July 11, 2021
Richard Branson, 70-year-old British billionaire, fulfilled his dream of flying to space today.
Branson founded Virgin Galactic in 2004 after years dreaming of space travel. “The moon landing was a cataclysmic moment for me,” Branson said during a precorded section of his live stream, moderated by Stephen Colbert.
The Brit hoped that travel would be a few years away, but is finally taking his trip this year — over 17 years later than expected.
This space plane Branson and his crew embarked on is a type called SpaceShipTwo, which is around the size of an executive jet.
Six passengers were on the plane, including the two pilots, David Mackay and Michael Masucci.
The three additional passengers are Virgin Galactic employees — Beth Moses, chief astronaut instructor; Colin Bennett, lead operations engineer; and Sirisha Bandla, vice president of government affairs and research operations — all attending to test and document how the experience could be for future paying participants.
Bandla’s role in particular focused on plants, collecting data that could potentially inform the potential of growing food on future space missions.
In honor of the plane’s return, singer Khalid agreed to a virtual performance of a not-yet-released track called, “New Normal.”
Khalid has his own interest in space and the future, fueling his involvement in this long-awaited project. “…I’ve been going through the motions of understanding this new, postmodern future that’s coming together, especially when it comes down to technology — it’s something that really excites me.” the singer told Rolling Stone.
The plane’s takeoff was delayed slightly due to weather, but Branson and the crew landed safely this afternoon. The livestream showed Branson and his family sharing hugs and kisses after exiting the plane.