Richard Branson reached space on a test flight for Virgin Galactic before gliding back to earth and touching down safely Sunday, the latest salvo in the burgeoning space tourism business led by high-profile billionaires.
The Virgin Group founder launched Sunday with three company employees, flying 53 miles above the earth in a final test mission before kicking off commercial space flights next year. Branson – who earned his pilot’s license – tested the astronaut cabin experience.
A photo released by the company showed Branson and the three others in zero gravity.
After landing, Branson tweeted that going to space was "more magical than I ever imagined."
Branson tweeted a photo of him with SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk Sunday morning, saying he is "feeling good, feeling excited, feeling ready."
"Big day ahead," Branson wrote. "Great to start the morning with a friend."
Crowds greeted Branson as he arrived for the launch. He waved, smiled and flashed a thumbs up in return.
The company reported that overnight weather prevented crews from starting flight preparations and delayed liftoff by 90 minutes.
"The future of space tourism in New Mexico is getting one step closer!" Virgin Galactic tweeted Saturday.
They rode in SpaceShipTwo – Virgin's craft designed for tourism – to reach suborbital space. The vessel was built by Virgin Galactic's sister company, The Spaceship Company, according to Space.
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SpaceShipTwo already set records by flying beyond the U.S. Air Force's defined boundary of space in 2018, reaching an altitude of 51.4 miles.
Elon Musk offered his best wishes and "Godspeed!" for the Virgin Galactic flight.
Rival tech billionaire Jeff Bezos, who has raced with Branson to be the first into space with his Blue Origin spaceflights, sent his own well-wish Saturday ahead of Unity 22.
"Wishing you and the whole team a successful and safe flight tomorrow," Bezos wrote in an Instagram caption alongside a smiling picture of Branson. "Best of luck!"
Musician Khalid was expected to perform his single "New Normal" at Spaceport America after the landing.