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Richard Branson goes to space: Virgin Galactic's 'Unity' lands safely in New Mexico

July 11, 2021
3 min read
Richard Branson goes to space: Virgin Galactic's 'Unity' lands safely in New Mexico
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Sir Richard Branson and a crew of five successfully flew the Virgin Galactic space plane Unity 50 miles above the Earth, landing safely in Spaceport America, N.M., at around 11:30 a.m. EDT. The hour-long flight was the culmination of a quest to fly into space that began in 2004. Branson, two pilots and three mission specialists were flown eight miles above the Earth by the aircraft VMS Eve, named after Branson's mother. The Unity then released from the VMS Eve and used rocket power to fly more than 50 miles above the Earth, where the crew experienced four minutes of weightlessness.

Branson had been planning space flights since 2010, but that first flight had been delayed repeatedly in the past 10 years, including the fatal crash of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo that killed co-pilot Michael Alsbury in October 2014.

Four years later, the company flew its first successful powered spaceship flight since the crash. In 2017, Branson said his company was closing in on this mission. “We are now just months away from Virgin Galactic sending people into space and Virgin Orbit placing satellites around the Earth,” he said then. Virgin Galactic flew successful flights in 2019 and in May 2021. On May 22, 2021, the FAA updated the company’s existing commercial space transportation operator license to allow it to fly customers to space.

The Virgin Galactic Unity crew experiences weightlessness. (Photo courtesy of Virgin Galactic)

The crew fulfilled a number of test objectives related to the cabin and customer experience, including evaluating the commercial customer cabin, the views of Earth from space, the conditions for conducting research and the effectiveness of the five-day pre-flight training program at Spaceport America.

This successful flight puts Virgin Galactic that much closer to its goal of offering the first commercial passenger space flights -- at $250,000 a seat. The Virgin Galactic crew earned their astronaut wings after they met qualifications set by NASA, the U.S. Air Force and the FAA on the 50-mile boundary between Earth's atmosphere and space. Passengers who fly on Virgin Galactic trips will also earn astronaut wings.

Related: Virgin Galactic is getting closer to taking passengers into space

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Featured image by Virgin Galactic
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
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    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees