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article imageVirgin Galactic moves closer to taking tourists to edge of space

By Karen Graham     May 12, 2019 in Technology
Santa Fe - Billionaire Richard Branson is moving Virgin Galactic’s winged passenger rocket and more than 100 employees from California to a commercial launch and landing facility in southern New Mexico, bringing his space-tourism dream a step closer to reality.
At a news conference on Friday, Branson said Virgin Galactic's "program had advanced sufficiently to move the spaceline staff and space vehicles from Mojave, California to its commercial operations headquarters at Spaceport America, New Mexico," according to the Associated Press.
The Spaceport America facility is a taxpayer-financed custom-tailored hangar and runway near the town of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. The Spaceport is part of Virgin Galactic's deal with New Mexico that entails moving its commercial spaceflight activities to Spaceport America when its vehicles and operations are ready for primetime, according to Engadget.
WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo take off for our fifth supersonic powered test flight on February 22...
WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo take off for our fifth supersonic powered test flight on February 22, 2019.
Virgin Galactic
Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity made its first test flight with a passenger aboard on February 22, soaring to an altitude of 55.87 miles (89.9 kilometers), just two months after its first flight. VSS Unity will now complete its final tests in New Mexico.
One of the final test flights could have Branson himself as a passenger, seeing as he intends to fly to the edge of space on July 16th, 2019 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11. However, Branson declined to set a specific deadline for the first commercial flight.
The Spaceship Company, a sister enterprise that manufactures space vehicles, will remain in the community of Mojave, California. Branson expects space tourism to bring about profound change, once it begins,
“Our future success as a species rests on the planetary perspective,” Branson said. “The perspective that we know comes sharply into focus when that planet is viewed from the black sky of space.”
Space sector analyst Adam Jonas, a managing director of equity research at Morgan Stanley, says space tourism has the potential to change the way the public views space as a domain for scientific and commercial exploration, reports Global News.
“You bring them back to earth and they explain what they saw — that’s a story, put through the velocity of social media, people want to hear,” he said. “Sometimes you need some distance to gain a perspective, seeing the earth from space, seeing how thin that layer of atmosphere is that protects us.”
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