Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic: See the space dream come to life

When he touched space Sunday, entrepreneur Richard Branson beat Blue Origin's Jeff Bezos in the billionaires-in-space race.

Amanda Kooser
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Richard Branson all suited up

Billionaire Richard Branson has stars in his eyes. The business magnate famous for the Virgin companies has conquered music and air, and now he's blasted himself into space. 

Branson took a ride on Virgin Galactic's rocket-powered SpaceshipTwo Unity, which launched from New Mexico on Sunday, July 11. The Unity 22 mission carried the entrepreneur and five other crew members to suborbital space. Branson beat rival billionaire Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and Blue Origin, into space.

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Unity gliding home

Richard Branson rode to suborbital space on Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo Unity. The July 11 flight was the 22nd for the space plane and marked its first fully crewed flight test with two pilots and four mission specialists, including Branson, on board. They were focused on evaluating the spaceflight experience, including the seat comfort, the views and the experience of being weightless.

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Spaceflight cockpit view

The view from suborbital space is lovely. This is what it looked like out the cockpit window during Virgin Galactic's first spaceflight in 2018.

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Unity 22

The crew of Unity 22 took off from New Mexico on July 11. From left to right are chief pilot Dave Mackay, Colin Bennett, Beth Moses, Richard Branson, Sirisha Bandla and pilot Michael Masucci. 

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Spaceport America

Spaceport America in New Mexico is Virgin Galactic's home base for its space tourism ambitions. The spaceport is located near the town of Truth or Consequences and the US Army's White Sands Missile Range. It's kitted out with quite a few amenities, including a lounge and astronaut training facilities.

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Virgin Galactic lounge

Future space tourists will relax in style at New Mexico's Spaceport America in the Virgin Galactic Gaia lounge. It features a "Barista Island."

VSS Unity in space over New Mexico.
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VSS Unity over New Mexico

The VSS Unity went for a test flight from Spaceport America in 2021 and starred in this stunning view with New Mexico down below.

Virgin Galactic Under Armour commercial space flight suits announced
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Under Armour flight suits

It's important to look sharp while you're floating around in microgravity. Virgin Galactic unveiled its first blue flight suits in 2019. The company worked with apparel maker Under Armour to develop the outfits. The crew received new updated spacesuits in late 2020. They have a definite Star Trek flair.

Virgin Galactic announces major milestone in manufacture of next spaceship
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Virgin Galactic shows off spaceship progress

It takes a lot of work to design and build a space plane. Virgin Galactic shared this look at an in-progress SpaceShipTwo in late 2019 during construction. The company hopes to have more than one spacecraft in service as it ramps up its space tourism efforts.

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WhiteKnightTwo aircraft

The Virgin Galactic WhiteKnightTwo Eve aircraft made its public debut at a major airshow in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, in 2009. The aircraft carries VSS Unity, which then releases from its mothership and heads for suborbital space.

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Eve and SpaceShipTwo

The VMS Eve and SpaceShipTwo Unity show how they work together to take flight.

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SpaceShipTwo Unity glides

This view shows SpaceShipTwo Unity releasing from the VMS Eve for a glide test flight in New Mexico.

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Unity landing

VSS Unity lands after a test flight in 2016 in the Mojave.

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Take a space seat

Virgin Galactic offers stylish space experience both inside and out. Customers will enjoy these seats and see this view when on board the spaceship VSS Unity.

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After the first spaceflight

Richard Branson celebrated the first Virgin Galactic human spaceflight in 2018 down on the ground with son Sam Branson. The Virgin Galactic founder may soon be able to count himself as one of the company's astronauts. If the July 11 flight date holds, he'll lay claim to the title before Amazon's Jeff Bezos reaches space with his Blue Origin spacecraft later in the month.

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