Sir Richard Branson hailed the “experience of a lifetime” after flying to the edge of space aboard Virgin Galactic’s first full crew flight.

The billionaire businessman smiled as he returned to the planet’s surface after feeling the thrill of weightlessness for several minutes on Sunday afternoon.

The launch has been hailed as a “historic moment” for the billionaire businessman, as well as for the entire commercial space industry.

Takeoff had been delayed by approximately 90 minutes on Sunday due to overnight weather at Spaceport America in New Mexico, United States.

But a video broadcast live online showed the Virgin Galactic in the air at around 3:45 p.m. UK time, and the plane had reached 40,000 feet by 4 p.m.

The spacecraft was transported into the atmosphere by its mother ship before being released so that it could reach heights of 250,000 feet.

Sir Richard and his crew reached speeds of Mach 3 on their way to the edge of space.

Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson carries crew member Sirisha Bandla on his shoulders to celebrate (Andres Leighton / AP)

After a short period during which they experienced weightlessness, the craft then pointed down and regained the ground to land at around 4:40 p.m.

On the return flight, Sir Richard praised the “experience of a lifetime” and the “hard work” that went into the flight.

On the runway, he was greeted with cheers and hugs as he returned to the spaceport.

He later said at a press conference: “Like most children, I have dreamed of this moment since I was a child, but honestly, nothing could prepare you to see Earth from space. .

“It was all just magical. “

He also paid tribute to scientist Stephen Hawking, whom he said was an “honor” to know him.

AIR VirginGalactic

(PA Graphics)

Sir Richard is the first owner-astronaut to go on a mission, defeating Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who plans to reach space in his own rocket through his company Blue Origin.

In the field, Michael Colglazier, Managing Director of Virgin Galactic, said: “This is a defining moment for Virgin Galactic.

“This is a historic moment for the new commercial space industry and it is certainly a historic moment for our founder Richard Branson.”

He said the company’s work on Sunday was devoted to “opening up the space for all.”

Tourists are expected to pay US $ 250,000 (£ 180,000) for a space flight on Virgin Galactic, which includes four minutes of weightlessness.

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