Branson's space plane glides to Earth from 45,000 feet
11 October 2010 9:57 GMT / By Rik HendersonHigh above the Mojave Desert in California, Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo, dubbed the VSS Enterprise, has successfully been glided to Earth, by a pilot, for the very first time.
The spaceship, which is soon to start taking passengers out of the Earth's atmosphere at $200,000 a pop (£125,404), was carried up to an altitude of 45,000 feet by a mothership plane, WhiteKnightTwo, and released. It arrived safely back at Mojave Air and Space Port with no problems reported whatsoever.
The pilot, Pete Siebold, was thrilled to be part of such a landmark flight: “The VSS Enterprise was a real joy to fly", he said. "Especially when one considers the fact that the vehicle has been designed not only to be a Mach 3.5 spaceship capable of going into space, but also one of the worlds highest altitude gliders”.
Sir Richard Branson, who witnessed the flight, added "This was one of the most exciting days in the whole history of Virgin. For the first time since we seriously began the project in 2004, I watched the world’s first manned commercial spaceship landing on the runway at Mojave Air and Space Port and it was a great moment. Now, the sky is no longer the limit and we will begin the process of pushing beyond to the final frontier of space itself over the next year".
It's unconfirmed whether he was wearing Spock ears at the time.
370 customers have already paid a deposit to take their seats on the Virgin Galactic when it starts its voyages. The sum paid to date totals over $50 million. Recession? Pah!
If you had the money, would you book a ride on the Virgin Galactic? Let us know in the comments below...