Branson rockets to the edge of space
Science desk || shiningbd
Billionaire Sir Richard Branson has successfully reached the edge of space on board his Virgin Galactic rocket plane.
The UK entrepreneur flew high above New Mexico in the US in the vehicle that his company has been developing for 17 years.
The trip was, he said, the "experience of a lifetime".
He returned safely to Earth just over an hour after leaving the ground.
"I have dreamt of this moment since I was a kid, but honestly nothing can prepare you for the view of Earth from space," he said in a press conference following the flight. "The whole thing was just magical."
The trip also makes him 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 height reached by Sir Richard in the rocket plane, known as Unity, was 85km (282,000ft; 53 miles).
The businessman was accompanied on the mission by the vehicle's two pilots, Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci, and three Galactic employees - Beth Moses, Colin Bennett and Sirisha Bandla.
The latter trio and Sir Richard were presented with commercial astronaut wings after the flight by former space station commander and Canadian astronaut, Chris Hadfield.
Sir Richard billed the flight as a test of the space tourism experience he expects to begin selling to customers from next year.