Branson raises prospect of ‘hotel off the moon’ after successful space flight

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Sir Richard Branson has raised the prospect of one day building “a hotel off the moon” after successfully flying to the edge of space.

The Virgin Galactic owner said future customers can expect “a lot more spaceships” which in time would help bring down the cost of a trip to space.

Sunday’s launch was hailed as a “landmark moment” for the billionaire businessman, as well as the whole commercial space industry.

Sir Richard told the PA news agency the experience was “more extreme than I’d have ever imagined” before hailing his first flight as “glorious”.

The Virgin Galactic rocket plane, with founder Sir Richard Branson and other crew members on board, lands back in Spaceport America, New Mexico
The Virgin Galactic rocket plane, with founder Sir Richard Branson and other crew members on board, lands back at Spaceport America, New Mexico (Andres Leighton/AP)

Asked if he had come to terms with his first space flight, he said: “I’m nearly back down to earth, but not quite.

“It was a lifetime dream. Dreams don’t often turn into reality, and it was just wonderful – everything I could have possibly dreamt of happened.

“I was a spoilt lad yesterday, that’s for sure.”

Take-off had been delayed by about 90 minutes on Sunday due to the weather overnight at Spaceport America in New Mexico.

But video streamed live online showed Virgin Galactic in the air at about 3.45pm UK time, and the spaceship had reached 40,000ft by 4pm.

The spacecraft was carried up into the atmosphere by its mothership before being released so it could power up to highs of 250,000ft.

Describing the experience, Sir Richard told PA: “It’s as if time seems to slow down and everything is more extreme than one would expect.

Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson carries crew member Sirisha Bandla on his shoulders while celebrating their flight to space at Spaceport America in New Mexico
Sir Richard Branson carries crew member Sirisha Bandla on his shoulders while celebrating their flight to space (Andres Leighton/AP)

“It’s one extreme to the other – the spaceship releases and you’re sitting back as the rocket fires and you’re going from nought to three mach in seven or eight seconds.

“That’s extreme, that’s more extreme than I’d have ever imagined – but glorious.

“Then there’s the sudden silence when you’re drifting into space and you’re still travelling at three mach with no noise from the rocket, drifting up and up and up.

“One of the most ridiculous moments is, having said a few words, just unbuckling and just drifting off one’s feet, then floating on top of the roof and looking down at our beautiful Earth, and seeing other people floating past you and realising ‘I’m an astronaut’.”

Asked when future customers could expect to have their chance to go to space, Sir Richard said: “Off the back of the successful flight yesterday, we will be getting out and building a lot more spaceships and in time that will help bring the cost down, but it’s not going to be immediate.

“Our next spaceship will go even higher than our current spaceship, and we’ll be building spaceships with even greater capabilities as time goes by.”

Sir Richard said Virgin Galactic’s flights may not be the end of his work in space.

Speaking of other dreams he wanted to pursue, he said: “Whether one day we will build a hotel off the moon, which is something that I’ve always dreamt of, or whether we’ll leave that to my children to do, we’ll have to see.

“But that’s something which is yet another dream that, if I’ve got time in my life to do, that would be something I’d love to do one day.”

Addressing whether he would go into space again, Sir Richard added: “I think I’ve been spoiled as much as I should be spoiled in my lifetime.

“We have hundreds of people who have signed up to go to space and they will now be itching to get into the seat.

“Maybe one day, when we have 20 spaceships, they might find room for me again – maybe my 90th birthday or something, maybe they’ll let me up for that. But we’ll see how we go.”

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