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Virgin Galactic VMS Enterprise makes first manned flight

The final frontier is about to become the ultimate mini-break, as Virgin Galactic's VMS Enterprise has completed its first manned flight.

Calling occupants of interplanetary craft: Virgin Galactic's VMS Enterprise, set to be the first commercial spacecraft, has completed its first manned flight.

The Enterprise was dropped from its mother ship, VMS Eve, at 45,000ft. It took just 11 minutes to glide back to Earth. That's not flying -- that's falling with style.

Pilot Pete Siebold and co-pilot Mike Alsbury proved they have the right stuff as they ran assorted tests during the flight before landing in the Mojave Desert in California. Honestly -- spaceships falling from the sky, robot cars on the roads -- living in California is living in the future.

The final test will see VMS Eve take the Enterprise to 56,000ft, where it will fire its own rockets and make a powered flight into space. Once that's successful, Virgin will get the go-ahead on taking paying customers up into the ether.

The VSS Enterprise is the first ship in the SpaceShipTwo class. The craft is built by spaceship-makers Scaled Composites, presumably built from washing-up bottles with cardboard fins stuck on. Scaled Composites' previous model, SpaceShipOne, won $10m in the X-Prize spaceflight competition for reaching 62 miles up in 2004.

The Enterprise is staffed by two crew and carries six cosmotourists. It will blast off into suborbital space up to 500 times a year, before gliding back to land at the Mojave Air and Space Port. Seriously, If you think Heathrow is bad, imagine going through passport control at a spaceport: Men in Black checking for bitey xenomorphs in your stomach, naked sexpots trying to jump the immigration queue and breed with everyone, and luggage that ends up on Venus.

Each astrotraveller will pay around £120,000, so the short period spent weightless will no doubt be a welcome relief from carrying their wallets around. Hanging out in space is fun -- we know, we've been there.

Image credit: Mark Greenberg, Virgin Galactic