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Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo Completes First Piloted Glide Flight

virgin galactic vss enterprise
Virgin Galactic took a major step toward realizing the dream of commercial space travel yesterday when its SpaceShipTwo craft gracefully landed at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. The landing marked the first piloted glide flight for the SpaceShipTwo, or VSS Enterprise, which was released from its mothership VSS Eve at an altitude of 45,000 feet. Manned by Pete Siebold and Mike Alsbury, the Enterprise successfully completed its two primary goals: to execute a clean release from the VSS Eve, and to make a clean landing in California. Siebold, meanwhile, achieved his goal of having fun.

"The VSS Enterprise was a real joy to fly," Siebold said. "Especially when one considers the fact that the vehicle has been designed not only to be a Mach 3.5 spaceship capable of going into space but also one of the worlds highest-altitude gliders." Virgin founder Richard Branson was also on hand to commemorate the landing, and heralded the event as a turning point in Virgin's history.

Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo

"This was one of the most exciting days in the whole history of Virgin," Branson said. "For the first time since we seriously began the project in 2004, I watched the world's first manned commercial spaceship landing on the runway at Mojave Air and Space Port, and it was a great moment. Now, the sky is no longer the limit, and we will begin the process of pushing beyond to the final frontier of space itself over the next year."

Once the experimental program is complete, Virgin will have to obtain an FAA license before launching its intergalactic travel service, for which some 370 customers have already registered. The company is hoping to offer commercial flights from Spaceport America in New Mexico, where a brand new runway is slated to be unveiled on October 22nd. It's still unclear when the program will get off the ground, but it looks like you'd better start saving up for your summer space vacations now.

Tags: flight, NewMexico, pilot, plane, RichardBranson, space, spacecraft, SpaceportAmerica, spacetourism, top, virgin, VirginGalactic