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News Link • Space Travel and Exploration

Virgin Galactic spaceplane reaches space with first passenger on board

• https://www.theverge.com, By Loren Grush

Tourism venture Virgin Galactic sent its spaceplane into space for the second time this morning, qualifying all three people on the flight for their commercial astronaut wings. One of those riders was Virgin Galactic's first test passenger, Beth Moses, the chief astronaut instructor at Virgin Galactic, who flew along with the vehicle's two pilots. She's also Virgin Galactic's first female flyer.

Virgin Galactic's spaceplane, the VSS Unity, is designed to take passengers to the edge of space where they can experience a few minutes of weightlessness. But up until the end of last year, the vehicle had yet to breach Earth's atmosphere. That changed in December when Virgin Galactic made history by sending VSS Unity to a height of 51.4 miles (82.7 kilometers), an altitude that many (but not all) consider to be the start of space. For those who adhere to that definition, it was the first time that people had launched to space from the US since 2011. As a result, the two pilots of the December flight received astronaut wings from the Federal Aviation Administration in early February.

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