Space Tourism

Space Tourism

Elements of this image furnished by NASA

On July 20, 1969, I photographed the huge party in Central Park (NYC) for the first moon landing and sold the pix to one of the local papers.

That was thrilling to that 22-year-old, and this achievement excited this 74-year-old out of a lethargy.

Branson's innovations - he literally changed space-flight paradigm from a take-off with a vertical thrust (rocket heading straight up into space with a huge fiery blast) to something based on air flight.

Unity took off attached to a double-mother plane. She separated from the mother plane at about 50,000 feet. (Commercial jets fly at a max of about 30,000 feet.)

We could see the 'altimeter' and other stats from the ship.

Unity accelerated into MAC 2 - 3 territory and turned the vehicle upside down, so that the 17 overhead cabin windows viewed into astonishing vistas.

In a maneuver called Feather, Unity's wings were repositioned from horizontal to vertical, and descended from the edge of space.

My only 'disappointment' was that we couldn't see clearly the astronauts experiencing weightlessness, something that lasted only seconds, maybe a minute.

And the tech people were challenged while tracking Unity's descent on screen. They did it without a visual 'lock' on the Unity, manually, and so more power to them!

Unity landed on the same airstrip it took off from.

Yeah, only the richest will afford it for now, but the engineering innovations will surely influence future flight.

Karen Kerschen lives in Ojo Caliente.

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(1) comment

David Kingsley

North American Aircraft, a private company, first launched a rocket from a plane in October 1967 with the X-15. The method has been used many times since. It is not a Virgin Galactic innovation, much less Branson, who is not an engineer.

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