*** ----> Virgin Galactic rockets its first tourist passengers into space | THE DAILY TRIBUNE | KINGDOM OF BAHRAIN

Virgin Galactic rockets its first tourist passengers into space

AFP | Washington           

The Daily Tribune – www.newsofbahrain.com

Virgin Galactic launched its first tourist passengers into the weightlessness of space yesterday, the culmination of a nearly two-decade commercial pursuit, the company said.

The three passengers -- Jon Goodwin, Keisha Schahaff, and her teenage daughter Anastatia Mayers -- floated gravity-free through the Virgin spacecraft about 45 minutes after taking off.

“They are officially astronauts. Welcome to space,” said Virgin Galactic announcer Sirisha Bandla as the spacecraft pushed above 80 kilometers (50 miles) in altitude, the level marking the edge of space where the pull of gravity is minimal.

Live video showed the three admiring views of the Earth below and further into space through the windows. Virgin Galactic’s spaceflights involve a giant, twin-fuselage carrier aircraft that takes off from a runway, gains altitude, then drops a rocket-powered spaceplane that soars into space. After a few minutes in space, the craft began descending and safely landed in the US state of New Mexico, at the same runway they took off from.