Some time in the future, you’ll be able to see the view depicted in the above video with your own two eyes. That’s thanks in part to the hearty pilots of Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity, who on December 13 piloted a commercial spaceplace to the edge of space for the first time. Richard Branson’s space tourism venture has been working toward this goal since at least 2004, when they first began exploring the idea of taking paying customers sight-seeing in space.
The video, published by the company on Tuesday, gives space travel enthusiasts a first-hand look at what it would be like to rip through the sky at 2.9 times the speed of sound (2,225 mph). The milestone flight has set the stage for Virgin Galactic to continue testing its SpaceShipTwo system in the future. A fact that must have come as a relief to the select few that the company claims have paid $250,000 to secure a spot on the plane.
“What we witnessed today is more compelling evidence that commercial space is set to become one of the twenty-first century’s defining industries,” stated the company in a December 13 release to Inverse. “Reusable vehicles built and operated by private companies are about to transform our business and personal lives in ways which are as yet hard to imagine.”
After the VSS Unity was released from its mothership, the WhiteKnightTwo, pilots Mark “Forger” Stucky and Frederick “CJ” Sturckow fired its rocket motors for one minute. That’s the longest they’ve ever been fully throttled, long enough to take the craft exactly 51.4 miles (82.7 kilometers) above the Mojave Desert.
At that altitude, Stucky and Sturckow experience a moment of weightlessness captured on camera when a cutout snowflake is seen floating across the screen. Once the spaceplane has completed longer flight tests, Virgin Galactic intends on taking up to six passengers for two and a half hour flights.
The age of space tourism is zooming toward us, at an approximate air-speed of mach 2.9.