“Experience of a lifetime”: billionaire Richard Brandson completes trip to the edge of space

Indians are now celebrating the much-awaited flight by the billionaire Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic rocket plane along with Indian-born Sirisha Bandla.

The rocket with 6 member team flew high above New Mexico in the US before returning to Earth just an hour after leaving the ground.

Sir Richard called the trip the “experience of a lifetime”.

Sunday’s trip makes the UK entrepreneur the first of the new space tourism pioneers to try out their own vehicles, beating Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and SpaceX’s Elon Musk.

The rocket plane, known as Unity reached a height reached of 85km (282,000ft; 53 miles).

Sir Richard was accompanied by pilots Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci and three Galactic employees, including Beth Moses, Colin Bennett, and Ms. Bandla.

Ms. Bandla, one among the crew is the second woman born in India to go to space after Kalpana Chawla who died when the Columbia Space Shuttle crashed at re-entry in 2003.

Bandla, who developed an early interest in space, works as the vice president of government affairs for Virgin Galactic.

Her grandfather said Reuters that “from the beginning, she was fascinated towards the sky, looking at the sky, space, how to enter space and what is there”.

Her presence on the historic trip has stirred a lot of excitement in India, especially in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh where she was born in the Guntur district.

Sir Richard first announced his intention to make a space plane in 2004, with the belief he could start commercial service by 2007, says the BBC’s Science Correspondent Jonathan Amos.

But technical difficulties, including a fatal crash during a development flight in 2014, made the space project one of the most challenging ventures of his career.

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