Holidays: Champagne and celebrities mark Branson’s space flight

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After landing, Branson opened the champagne, usually spraying it on him and his crewmates before drinking it directly from the bottle. – © AFP

Lucie AUBOURG

Champagne flowed, guests were happy and Grammy-nominated singer Khalid released a new single: British billionaire Richard Branson had a party in the desert to mark his first flight into space.

The eccentric septuagenarian founder of Virgin Galactic arrived early in the morning at Spaceport America, built largely on his own initiative, in the US state of New Mexico.

The sun rose on the futuristic glass facade of the building, located in a region that has 340 days of good weather a year.

A small crowd of invited guests, baked in the hot sun, cheered as the space crew boarded a black SUV and headed for the rocket, which was sitting at the end of a 3.6-foot runway. kilometers (2.2 miles). On board were Branson, two pilots and three other Virgin Galactic employees.

Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson (L) celebrates with crew members after flying into space aboard a Virgin Galactic ship, a voyage he described as the “experience of a lifetime” “- © AFP / File Ozan KOSE

Also at hand, though not seen by the cameras, was SpaceX founder Elon Musk, another billionaire with galactic aspirations.

A TikTok star, a celebrity TV presenter and a Canadian astronaut were among the preparations, ready to comment on the momentous moment.

After launch, the huge carrier plane flew through the air for about 50 minutes. Guests took refuge under a white tent, eating snacks while the children ran.

But they soon ran out again to witness the main event: the spacecraft released from the plane, starting the engine for a supersonic ascent to shouts of joy from observers on Earth.

“Welcome to space!” announced the commentator a few minutes later, just before the ship began its descent.

Branson’s face filled the big screen, which came out of the rocket: “Once upon a time there was a boy with a dream, looking at the stars. Now I’m an adult on a spaceship! He told the crowd.

– Medals and free tickets –

When the ship returned to land, Khalid took the stage. Millions of listeners tuned in to hear him debut his new song, “New Normal,” a nod to future space tourism.

When the ship returned to land, Khalid took to the stage to premiere his new song, “New Normal,” a nod to future space tourism. – © AFP

Once the landing was over and the rocket parked a few feet from the stage, Branson arrived.

After embracing his family, he climbed to the platform to deliver wing-shaped medals to the entire crew, symbolizing his new status as an astronaut.

Branson opened the champagne, spraying it freely on him and his crewmates before drinking it straight from the bottle.

The accomplished showman, also submitted a contest for space enthusiasts to win two free tickets on Virgin Galactic flights through the Omaze website and a personal guided tour of Spaceport America.

“I promise a lot of chocolate,” he joked, comparing himself to Willy Wonka, Roald Dahl’s character. “We are here to make (the space) accessible to everyone.”



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