Watch - #Virgin #Galactic #Launches First #Spaceflight with #Tourists August 17, 2023

Watch - #Virgin  #Galactic #Launches First #Spaceflight with #Tourists August 17, 2023

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fight and then a smaller rocket-powered aircraft attached underneath and in just minutes we expect that smaller ship the VSS or virgin spaceship Unity to separate and then blast off to an altitude of about 50 miles above the Earth and that would be just high enough for the three-person crew and the three private passengers to be weightless for a few minutes before then returning to Earth in a Glide plane essentially now this marks another milestone in space tourism the tourists on board two are a mother-daughter Duo from Antigua and Barbuda Barbuda rather 46 year old Keisha Shoff is a health and wellness coach an 18 year old Anastasia Mayers won their seats in a charity raffle and the third is 80 year old John Goodwin he's a former Olympic canoeist who he will be the first Olympian and one of the oldest people ever to travel into space Goodwin will also have also has rather Parkinson's disease and says he hopes his trip will inspire others actually he bought his ticket for about listen to this a quarter of a million dollars way back in 2005 since then by the way tickets have just gotten more expensive now their whole trip will take about 30 to 45 minutes or so from separation to touchdown and the spaceship Unity last went to space in late June NBC's Gotti Schwartz is in New Mexico covering all of this for us Gotti talk to us about what you're seeing what's the mood like on the ground well what we're seeing right now is a bunch of people over here at the Spaceport straining up in the sky trying to get a glimpse of Eve that Mothership which is about 30 35 000 feet up right now fortunately Tom I've got a little toy here so let me just demonstrate what's about to happen uh we've got Eve this is the mothership and then this is the VSS uh Unity that we were just talking about so in just a few minutes uh Eve and unity they are going to separate like this then Eve is going to peel off and then Unity is going to get ready to light this Thruster back here this rocket pushing about 70 000 pounds of thrust and that's when Unity just goes Sky High it goes climbs climbs climbs we're hoping to hear a sonic boom out here because it's gonna go past Mach 1 past Mach 2 a little past Mach 3 as it goes up into space and then we see Unity or least we hope to see Unity from the cameras that are back down here on Earth go like this it is going to invert and at that point everybody inside of unity will be able to unbuckle they will be in zero gravity and they will be able to float over to whichever window they want and peer down or up at Earth depending on their orientation because down and up once you get into space it kind of loses the normal reference that we see and then they will use these little thrusters to bring the unity back to this orientation and that's when you see these these uh little booms on the end if this doesn't actuate but what you're going to see is these go up like this and then it falls because what they want to do is they want to make sure that when this spacecraft re-enters the atmosphere it's not coming down like a lawn dart it's coming down like this almost like a reverse parachute where the shielding takes the brunt of the atmosphere slows it down and then this squat little spacecraft becomes a glider these tail booms they go back into place and then it Glides all the way down to right here and Landing back at the Spaceport America which is where we are all going to be waiting for them all of that is set to take place in the next hour Tom you know got it not unlike the space shuttle in terms of its return Glide paths right uh the space shuttle glided back to a landing at the Kennedy Space Center usually and this is similar and in fact on the mission back in 2021 I was there in the New Mexico desert Richard Branson was on board they had a problem on the return they were hit by heavy winds Aloft and as a result they missed their Glide path and they came out of the FAA approved Glide slope and the flight path [Music] you know we say Glide and then you look at this thing in person and you're like wait a minute I know what gliders are gliders have huge uh huge Wings this thing is so Squat and you're right the Delta formation here reminds you of uh those space shuttles and uh when it comes to wind they say that they have all the forecasts modeled they've been working on that ever since and so they they think that they have this down to an exact science but that Delta this Delta aircraft will come down and interestingly enough we're just talking about the shuttle this is the only re-entry vehicle right now that's doing uh this type of approach but just a ways down Alamogordo and White Sands they did see a shuttle that landed there once it was uh I believe the the normal Runway was flooded uh out east and so they had to divert here to New Mexico and they landed over at White Sand so this is an area that has a lot of Open Spaces but again again all the modeling that's gone into the flight plan today is something that they've been preparing for so for quite some time the pilots that we've been speaking to they've been simulating and they've actually flown those models today in the simulator with the exact same wind speeds that they think that they're going to have today and so far everything's a go Tom well Wilson we should follow up and just make the point that after they they had that problem with the re-entry two years ago the FAA actually grounded the Virgin Galactic Fleet for a time as they did a full analysis on what exactly happened and what went wrong uh you know this is a stunning moment for Virgin Galactic Richard Branson the CEO it's his dream that he was working on for years I spoke with him about his dream back in 2021 take a listen [Music] this is your baby true yeah I mean it's it's definitely a pinch a pinch yourself moment um they um I always envisioned as a kid a spaceship should be it should look like this yeah you did you envisioned this when you're a kid I I I just thought that's how how you should fly to space not not in a in a rocket you know going off from the ground and you should be able to go to space and come back to space like this yeah I never never thought that I would be able to design something quite like that uh Richard Branson uh they're standing in front of his spaceship uh two years ago in New Mexico I said to him it looks like a lot of fun maybe I could join you and you say why not just crawl on board you could be a stowaway he said I always wanted to be a stowaway let's talk to Eileen Collins right now she's a retired NASA astronaut commander of a space shuttle she wrote the book through the glass ceiling to the Stars the story of the first American woman to command a space mission uh boys nice to see you Eileen thanks so much for joining us I got to say it makes me a little uncomfortable to refer to these folks who are going to be going up there for a quick bounce into space as astronauts uh to me you're the astronaut you spent decades working on that resume this is really about space tourism right and what are your thoughts about it yeah that's a great question Tom I there are professional astronauts like myself who spend you know the vast majority of our professional Life Training to go to space we know how to operate the spacecraft that's our career field but then you have people that pay to go up or maybe they win a ticket to go up on one flight one of the marketing I want to say techniques of these companies is you can call yourself an astronaut if you go over 50 miles well there's a little bit of stretch of the term astronaut I'm okay if they want to call themselves astronauts because frankly I think the general public understands the difference between a professional astronaut and a one-time flyer but keep in mind some of these people aren't just tourists some of them actually do experiments and they actually have like an agenda and a schedule in things that they want to do so there is a I want to say that uh professional aspect to it but I'm not too worried about what they call themselves I just think that I think people are smart enough to know the difference between a professional astronaut and a one-time flyer so someone needs to come up with a new term to call these people so that's a challenge out there what's the new term to say one-time flyer and is it important do you think that they're you know a lot of these uh Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk they all think it's important to in their words you know kind of democratize space make it accessible to everybody give everybody the chance to see the Earth from the altitude you've seen it at when you were on board the space station do you agree with that is there value in allowing all of us to see to have the same experience well I I do think there is value in it yes and I do agree with them I don't know if we're going to get every person up in space that that just doesn't sound realistic but for people that really want to go now there's many many people I talk to say I would never do that I would never don't ever send me to space but there's some people that have a dream to go there and I think the goal would be for those that have the dream and that really want to that they someday will have the opportunity so maybe today if you're in your 20s or 30s you don't have the money to do it well maybe in 10 20 30 years they'll be so much flying and the cost will come down to the point that you may be able to afford it and you may be able to have that wonderful opportunity you know having been and space myself I think space tourism is going to be hugely successful because the human experience of being in microgravity floating looking back at the Earth from space is such a wonderful human feeling and I think that you really want to take care of the earth when you look at it from a distance and you can see you know you can see the stars at noon you can see there's a curvature of the Horizon the planet really is round the Earth is not flat I think when you have that experience it makes you want to really care for the Earth more so I I really support what these CEOs and we say billionaires but I support what they're doing I think it's very important and I and I think I I'm very happy and I hope for the best of success Commander Eileen Collins do not go anywhere please we need your expertise and um by the way Commander Collins was in charge of the return to space mission back in 2005 uh and brought that Discovery up to the space station let's bring in Tariq uh Malik who is the editor-in-chief of he joins us now uh Tariq can you talk a little bit about the safety concerns that they've had here with it with regards to uh specifically to Virgin Galactic following they had a fatal accident in 2014 and then two years ago when they violated their return FAA flight path yeah Tom you know it's been a really long road for Virgin Galactic and their spaceship 2 vehicle which we see uh the the folks on on Unity today you know during the development of the spacecraft itself hang on one second I just want to tell the viewer you are watching now the view from inside the Virgin Galactic uh spaceship so those are the passengers who are inside and waiting to essentially rock it for them to light the rocket underneath that uh underneath the plane pardon me the plane and then fire off towards uh their their very low space uh it's not an orbit but let's just say you know just above the Carmen lion or about just below the Carmen line I should say at 50 miles up uh Tariq go ahead what are your what are your thoughts about the safety record of Virgin Galactic you know I think they've had um their own version of um the trials and tribulations that we've seen Big Space Agency have over time about how difficult it is to fly in space they had not just a a fatal accident in 2014 where in which a pilot died another was Gravely injured uh blamed a pilot error and they had to revamp all of their training uh and Safety Systems to make sure it couldn't happen uh but then they had to enhance their Communications uh with officials with the FAA after that 2021 flight that first flight um because they deviated from the airspace they were allowed to be in on a return uh and they had to make sure that they kind of get those uh those safety Communications uh in line with what the FAA needs four safe passenger flight um a lot of growing pains they even had a fatal accident on the ground with their developer uh uh just you know in the original designing of this this vehicle I would say it's a lot safer now but because of those uh those issues uh they're they're very competent confident enough that this is their first ticketed paying passenger flight they had a research flight earlier this year um and uh and the goal for them of course is to ramp up this commercial flight uh so that they can get a wider a wider variety of passengers and and participants hey do we still have Gotti on the ground uh Gotti give us an update how close are we to uh to actually seeing Unity drop from the space plane 10 minutes away I'm not sure if you can hear me but it looks like right now we're about 10 minutes away um from the drop from that point where Eve will separate from unity and then Unity will head straight up into space so a lot of people are watching the streams the live stream here from Virgin Galactic just started as well and then there you have that live look inside you've got those passengers sitting there just talking a little bit about the crew you've got Keisha and you've got Anna that you're looking at right there we were talking to Keisha a little bit earlier and she said one of the best experiences for her that she's looking forward to is to look down at our beautiful planet and then look across at her beautiful daughter taking in that same view so that's something that we're hoping to see here in just a little bit and and talking about those tickets so we talked a little bit about how John Goodwin he's been waiting about 18 years he bought some one of the first tickets at about 250 000 way back in the day before they were where they're at now but Keisha she was sitting in a plane she was sitting on a virgin plane making a flight when she saw an ad pop up for uh sweepstakes to fly to space so she took a little moment to fill out that form and didn't think anything of it well lo and behold the next thing she knew so Richard Branson was at her door telling her that she had won a ticket to space and not only did she win one ticket to space she won two tickets to space so at that moment she facetimes Anna that you see uh right there by I believe it's behind her and the next thing you know uh they are now on their way to 53 54 miles above the Earth Tom you are a native New Mexican and I'm wondering you know that area well is it hot as heck right now what's it like on the ground yeah it's very hot and actually it's funny that you say native New Mexican I was a student at NMSU in 2000 0004 and I remember they had this thing called The X prize cup and one of my journalism assignments was to go out to the the airport and see the X prize cup and back then it was spaceship one very similar to this design and ah you know you and I are both space Buffs so I I was kind of a rocket guy uh and I saw this design and I was like no way is this ever gonna fly it had won the space uh the X prize cup at that time I remember getting video of it us having these debates is this gonna happen is this not gonna happen I Can't Describe what it was like a few days ago going in that Hangar and seeing uh the uh Unity right there in front of me attached to Eve it was this kind of Full Circle moment where you're like oh wait actually like we're kind of living in the future here and it made me think of it made me think of that day uh back there in 2004 For the First Time When I saw this design but again it's a very ambitious design and one that they're hoping will gracefully return back here to Earth but it looks like from the reaction of the people we've got about uh five or six minutes before there's that separation from Eve and before we start to see Unity climb into space uh perfect Gotti don't go anywhere of course you're not going to go anywhere but hang on hang on because we want to we want to ask you a few more questions here but let's bring in Clayton Anderson he's the author and retired NASA astronaut uh he has some great perspective here as well Clayton same thing to you are we really watching and witnessing this whole new age in space exploration or space enthusiasm when you're allowing just everybody uh to go into space if they can afford it now this is obviously a luxury life experience for those who pay the the ticket I think it's great we're giving people the opportunity for everyone right now it's not [Music] Clayton I think Clayton I think we've got a bad Zoom connection I can't hear you and I think you're cutting in and out let's uh try to re-establish that let's instead go to if we could Janna Elvin or Levin parme is a professor of physics and astronomy at uh Barnard college and I'm just wondering professor your thoughts about the uh you know when you look at all the models here we got the SpaceX model which is essentially a rocket that goes straight up traditional rocket you've got the same thing with Verge with the with the blue blue origin sorry Jeff Bezos same thing but the Virgin Galactic model is different as God has explained in terms of using the space plane if you will yeah the attempt is really um to do something sub-orbital meaning these spacecraft can't do a full orbit around the Earth what they're really doing is going up high enough to break out of the Earth's atmosphere and I just want to remind everybody we are in space you know the Earth is in space floats in space so what they're really trying to do do is get further out so that they're breaking out of the Earth's atmosphere but they never break away from the Earth's gravitational pull and so instead of orbiting eventually they start to fall back to Earth and what the astronauts or these space tourists I guess are really experiencing is the weightlessness of of just falling I mean you can do that on Earth you can cut a cable in an elevator and you'll be in free fall and you will experience weightlessness so what they're really trying to do is have that experience but have it further out and hopefully with a nice smooth gliding ending as you've said yeah I've had that experience in the in the zero g plane so it's similar but we should make the point they're not going into orbit they literally they're not doing a quick bounce up into space and then they come back down again I I've equated it almost to a trampoline bounce yeah and they've been doing these kinds of parabolic flights in the Earth's atmosphere for many decades where artists have gone up experiment teachers have gone up performers dancers have gone up in these flights and and they are parabolic they literally follow a parabola and fall back towards Earth before starting the engines again and scooping the passengers safely to a landing so this idea of being weightless it's also true of people in the International Space Station they're not so far out that they don't feel the Earth's gravity they absolutely do but they're just falling all the time and they're falling in such a way that they can execute a full orbit so they have a prolonged experience of weightlessness as opposed to the few minutes that these space tourists will experience all right hey Tariq Malik let's bring you back into this and I'm just wondering now you are the consummate space reporter you the the Tariq covers the ins and outs of this industry like nobody else and we're always comparing geek nodes when we're at the Kennedy Space Center today together and I'm just wondering Tariq you know what is the reputation within the space Community right now of Virgin Galactic they've had a rough couple of years as you and I discussed they were grounded for a while they did have a fatality about eight nine years ago uh how how are they kind of ranked and rated compared to what Elon Musk has done with SpaceX and what Jeff Bezos has done with blue origin or and is that even a fair comparison well sometimes are kind of words thank you so much but you you make a really great point that Virgin Galactic really when you stack it up uh to their private space flight competitor seems uh to have started off really strong earlier than than many others back in 2004 with that announcement they were hoping to fly in 2007 then they had a lot of development setbacks a lot of hurdles and then here we are now in 2023 with their first actual space tourist flight although they've had of course many other test flights and a research flight in the past um it does seem like they're they're building momentum but they still have a long way to go they've got a second spaceship uh ready to go to ramp up that scale but they've actually really in a recent earnings call have said that you know people should should not look for a lot of a big influx from these flights because they had to raise prices and the people they're flying now uh are at that that um more uh that lowered two thousand uh two hundred thousand dollar rate whereas now they're at 450 000 uh SpaceX meanwhile flying tourists into orbit have booked flights around the Moon uh on a brand new spacecraft um this is very different than that I think their closest competitor is blue origin which has its own issues they did lose a vehicle recently they're they're building back to return their own uh system to flight um but they they have outflown a few more passenger flights than uh Virgin Galactic so I think that they still both uh have their own challenges and seeing both vehicles ramp up will give us a really good picture of how robust this commercial space suborbital space tourism Market will actually be both both companies have backlogs virtual electric is a very big extensive 800 person backlog of customers to fly once they get through that and reopen reservations at their higher 450 000 price I think they'll be able to see what their road to financial success would be well I think you just made a very important Point you're right they're now charging they went from 250 000 a flight to 450 000 a flight and they've got 800 people they claim as of last December who are on the list to go so there clearly is a market but it's uh it's not for it's not for the typical average middle class American hey exactly you know and this was a always a a market at least at the beginning for the the the the wealthy the the super rich those orbital flights for the first space tourists to the International Space Station they paid tens of millions of dollars uh it's most likely more than that now especially when you have folks uh like uh uh Jared isaacman buying out full SpaceX Rockets into orbit so that's you know tens of millions times uh uh several uh space uh virtual Galactic meanwhile has to get through that backlog and the first ticket prices at Tom were 200 000. so they're flying Folks at that lower rate until they get to this uh this higher 450 000 to try to make that profit over time and they're also trying to build a new class of vehicle the Delta class of the spaceship twos that should be more affordable and more reliable to fly for me this is where I'll tell you what let's step in if we can to some of the coverage here from Virgin Galactic Mission Control to and listen to what they say as we're getting closer now Unity dropping from from the mothership Eve to then light the rocket um and let's make the point again that Unity uh is the spaceshift that will go up there and Eve is the mothership named after Richard Branson's mother actually in honor of her as you as you just mentioned that release point the right after that the crew lights the rocket motor and unity's trajectory to space starts in that horizontal release position before turning towards space a maneuver that we refer to as the gamma turn and then the rest of the rocket motorburn occurs in the vertical we're now two minutes out from release the rocket motor boost was one of my favorite parts of the flight seeing the Earth drop away and seeing space come into view is just absolutely exciting and of course our vehicle gives our customers the best view of Earth with the amount of Windows we have yes so we have we are go for release on time that's about a minute 40 from now as you mentioned that view from Earth when when the rocket motor burn is completed the pilots will command the ship to feather that's rotating the tail and the AFT section of the wing up to about 60 degrees and that starts a backflip maneuver for our spaceship and it orients the the Vehicles such that all of those windows overhead are providing just a fantastic view for everyone on board to be able to look down at the earth below all right so we're about a minute 10 away from release at this point one minute and I can see the crowds in Antigua and they're excited I can see the crowds here at Spaceport America getting ready to cheer okay we're listening to the voice the voice of Virgin galactic's mission control and the narrators because they have the front roll seat uh sitting there watching all of this happen live and they can count us down to the actual moment that we see Unity drop from Eve and that allows once we get to the designated point in our flight profile for the mothership Pilots to engage the release and set Unity free we're now 30 seconds away from release very last preparation that the pilots in spaceship do before release is they push that control stick all the way forward ensuring that we have a perfect separation we're 15 seconds 10. five three two one release release ignition good control there's Mach One the pilots have started trimming for that turn towards space trim is now set there is Max Q that's the point of maximum pressure exerted on the vehicle by the atmosphere those on board are experiencing about three G's right now and traveling over a thousand miles an hour that's incredible I can imagine they're having quite a great time we are at Mach 2 we're in the vertical headed towards space this is the part where they're seeing earth move away and seeing space come into view and seeing that they're going to space and just it is an incredible feeling it's we've got about Mach 2.8 Mach 3

approximately and rocket motor cut off amazing the crowds here are just absolutely going wild I can't imagine what's happening in Antigua with them cheering them on incredible go Keisha go Anna go John so everybody on board has been cleared to unstrap and enjoy that zero g experience the pilots have unlocked the feather that's the preparation so that they can raise the feather here momentarily they're engaging the RCs as well the feather is now starting to move on its way up everyone's up out of their seats just oh it's incredible they're all I know they're it's amazing they're all going to the window and taking in this just absolutely incredible view of Earth the planet where all of their experiences are held everything they've ever known it's wonderful down below the feather is all the way up we have a predicted apogee of about 289 000 feet that is amazing our crew looks like they're having an absolutely incredible time and they are officially astronauts welcome to space congratulations to John takisha to Anna on becoming astronauts today and a special congratulations to our Unity pilot Kelly for her first space flight and welcome back to space CJ and Beth and the vehicle is oriented in that that backflip or that upside down maneuver from our perspective uh and you can see them just enjoying that view of the earth below man it's just incredible I I can see that they just can't take their eyes away and it's you know it's hard for us to describe we can obviously see they're having just an incredible time in space taking in the views but it's an experience it's the silence it's the views it's seeing our brilliant Planet against the matte black of space I can't imagine I can't imagine I mean I can't imagine what they're going through right now and I can't wait to hear about it yeah well we just achieved again we're listening to the voice listening to the voice of Virgin Galactic mission control but let's bring in Commander Eileen Collins and let's also bring in Clayton Anderson to NASA veteran NASA astronauts uh folks what's it like to really experience that for the first time Clayton will start with you because we missed you the last time and we take a moment thanks Tom uh microgravity and the weightless in space it's an amazing experience I would be excited about doing it but I would be longing for a much longer time period uh Commander Eileen Collins you've spent many many days uh on orbit and I'm just wondering what was the first time like for you what did you experience was it just a total Rush that almost out was an out of Body Experience yeah absolutely well I'm going to answer that but first of all I want to say kudos to the commander uh who no one mentions his name but it is CJ sterkow former shuttle astronaut and Commander who's flying for the spaceship 2 right now uh CJ sterkoff he's also a former Marine and a former office mate of mine include the shuttle four times so I'm really proud of what he's doing but the um my first experience in space was very clumsy I unstrapped from my seat I got out and I immediately hit the other seat and then I hit a panel of switches and you mentioned the commander is CJ storkyle and of course the pilot is Kelly Latimer so we do want to make sure we mention them as well uh and then I'm just wondering by the way they're now back in their seats and they're now going to begin the re-entry process uh Eileen being a former shuttle Commander this is a unique vehicle to come back in on a Glide slope right talk to us about the challenges here well I do want to say the difference between this flight in the blue origin flights are the Virgin Galactic is piloted so it's actually flown back by the pilots whereas the blue origin is to see that it's fully automatically animated they have no Pilots so I think that probably with the Virgin Galactic maybe makes the passengers feel a little more secure that they have two highly trained pest Pilots up front that are know what they're doing the pilots need to stay in a very small uh piece of airspace so that's one of their concerns but more important than that is that they stay within a flight envelope which is uh mainly their Dynamic pressure their air speed their altitude keep the flight safe and of course they're lighting back without without an engine so they're using their uh speed brakes to control their energy and hit the landing spot similar to what we did in the shuttle but they've got a unique Wing configuration where they literally have to feather the wings back and they have to do it at exactly the right moment because if they mess that up if they missed the timing that can be catastrophic and it was back in 2014 when they lost a test pilot it's all about balancing yeah that's right and check we lost a hit the country lost Michael Alsbury that was on October 31st of 2014. he feathered the control surfaces a little too early and so it was determined that it was pilot error and B is Tariq had mentioned earlier there are fixes that went in to prevent that from happening again and I can tell you the pilots I am sure they are very very well trained because they are on board themselves and they want to make sure that they get that Landing back there safe and that everybody comes back safe so um I have a lot of confidence I also know Kelly Latimer she was attended the air force test Viola School shortly after me highly professional uh person and and they're they're in very good hands with CJ and Kelly it's always amazing everybody within your astronaut course he seems to know each other uh is Gotti Schwartz is he available on the ground there not yet okay Gotti's just taking it all in on the ground Clayton and I'm wondering your thoughts as well as you watch this uh as you watch this next generation of space tourists returning from this experience good organization uh cool that CJ sterkow is Eileen hello timing another favorite of mine to go to space well they are in very very good hands with uh CJ this is a part of our planet that's a little connected today for finite Planet hush that they're feeling is going to be incredible so Landing is bittersweet because they were having such fun in space but uh what a great experience and what a good start for uh virgin girl actions and places that have perfect Clayton Anderson thank you very much a good perspective there uh let's just tune back in and listen in again to Virgin Galactic commission control and their conversation as now we watch these three space tourists return with the three crew members from the unity spaceship hope that they'll have upon return to Earth yeah so we've sent two people to space so far of course we're so grateful for this partnership with Virgin galactics and Keisha to space and then more soon that no announcements yet though um and so in terms of the the impact that we hope that they have I would say that it's different depending on the person and we can't predict what that is but what we're looking for is people who are committed to making a difference in their communities people who have a track record of of success and people who have a track record of doing things that make a difference in the world and people who are natural leaders and and so the hope is is that each of them come back let's go ahead and bring in Gotti Schwartz God is on the ground there in New Mexico and I'm wondering did you hear the sonic boom Gotti I heard the second boom on re-entry so I believe and I'm not a physicist but there was one sonic boom Going up and then on re-entry from what I understand there's two Sonic booms some people say they heard both I heard one and Tom I can see the white Speck back on approach right now it's hovering around this this Lake in New Mexico called Elephant Butte making its way back over here but look I don't know if I'm caught up in the motion of the family behind us but like humans did a thing again the idea that we humans have built technology that sends an 18 year old and an 80 year old up into space in this tiny capsule and then they're able to float in zero gravity with a Thruster that pushes them three times the speed of sound and this is the time that we live in a time where it has never been more likely that just a normal person at home could go to space it's uh it's it's all inspiring so we're waiting for the unity to do a circle they're going to they're losing velocity right now and it's all about making that glider slow down as much as possible upon approach and then we will see that glider come down Tom this is the the quirkiest part of this design as a Unity comes down there are two Landing wheels that are going to come down the landing gear comes down right here so the wheels touch down and then there's a landing skid and this Landing skid deploys right here this Landing skid on the bottom of that is a pad of wood like wood like tree wood and that Landing Pad is gonna touch down and then it's gonna nose down very slowly about a hundred knots and then it's gonna skip to a stop this thing's getting to a stop after going to space all by a pattern we're told very specialized wood but that's what's going to give it the friction to stop here on the tarmac I mean like this is one of those things you just gotta see to believe we're seeing it right now seeing their faces looking back down at Earth it is it is a lot to take in but as you can see the crowds behind me there looking straight up at the sky and uh so far so good Tom yeah that that piece of wood is not a two by four from Home Depot I'm guessing right this is stress test and perfect let me ask you let me nothing against Home Depot I'm sure they've got Gray great wood that could go to space and come back Gotti I'm guessing you would be first on the list to go if they offered you the chance oh I'm here when I heard Branson offered you a chance to stow away like if that thing was still on Earth I would be trying to stow away being like look they said Tom could do it I I should be able to do it too but yes absolutely sign me up I'm going to be entering every sweepstakes when I play the lottery I play the lottery to try to win a ticket to space and and talking a little bit about uh ticket to space we've had a chance to speak to the representative here for space for Humanity they are an incredible organization if people are watching and they're like you know what we're really excited about space but this isn't for me I'm never going to be able to afford it space for Humanity is uh an organization that's dedicated to sending Future Leaders up into space you apply and there is a chance that you'll have this Willy Wonka moment and you'll win a ticket to space whether it's Virgin Galactic blue origin SpaceX they're partnering with a lot of these different space organizations uh Keisha and Anna are going up because of their partnership with with Virgin Galactic they are choosing the next astronauts as we speak Tom and when's the next flight Gotti from there in New Mexico for a Virgin Galactic do you know when the next one's scheduled we don't know exactly when the next one's scheduled but they are saying that now that this one's going up this is the first time they're taking a fully commercial uh uh a payload or our passengers up they want to do these every single month then a little bit down the road they want to do these every single week so by 2026 they're hoping to have a lot more of these spacecraft uh these Unity spacecraft and they want to have these flights going up every single week they've got a long list 800 people they want that place to grow and so pretty soon we could start seeing these launches as like yep another thing that just happened in the New Mexico Sky I'm going to look at it because people are cheering and it's right yeah you're getting close we're getting close towards Landing let us know when it's coming and I I would say you know Branson has always promised big uh he promised me 10 years ago when next year we're going to fly 300 people uh so you always take it with a grain of salt he is a great uh promotional uh asset for his own company but he did say in 2019 he wanted to have 50 000 people already uh as astronauts by 2019. so he wanted 50 000 astronauts by 2019. they're coming a little short of that as you can see but nonetheless here we come with the first three civilians who were coming in for a landing now to the New Mexico Spaceport and and by the way Gotti who's standing there New Mexico's invested a heck of a lot of money in this idea of the future of this of this vision of becoming the Spaceport for space tourism absolutely and you know like I am a new Mexican so a lot of New Mexicans have been Skeptics let me just tell you landing gear is down landing gear is down go ahead so so that landing gear is down here so we were just talking about the new Mexican perspective a lot of people are excited about all the jobs that you're bringing but back in the day when this was first announced and there was absolutely nothing in the desert I remember coming out here with the camera and a tripod and shooting it at the mound of dirt that the Spaceport has become and again this healthy doth dose of skepticism but now seeing the infrastructure seeing all the aerospace engineering seeing the hand here we come touchdown Gotti up touchdown coming in for look at this this is a sight to behold [Applause] and here are those two those two wheels on the back landing gear are deployed and they are touching down for a little bit that helps bleed off the energy the the spaceship has uh using the air draw Associated and you can see yep and you can see that that front landing gear that's a skid that nose is going to come down and you've got that wooden pad on it gear is now down so look at that at a designated AirSpeed the pilots have the option to apply the brakes or not they can let the uh let the vehicle uh roll to a stop we have plenty enough Runway here they are applying the brakes uh today so um we have 12 000 feet of Runway here at Spaceport America and 200 feet wide so plenty of room let's remind the audience that the commander here is CJ stewartkow who's a veteran NASA pilot as well and Kelly Latimer both of them accomplished and there is the the new class of space tourists to fly on the Virgin Galactic ship Gotti on board incredible and yeah talking about those Pilots we had a chance to talk to to Kelly yesterday and she was talking about her conversations with CJ this one blew my mind they were talking about the things that they have to prepare for for zero gravity and CJ tells Kelly he's like you know everything's the same except for you gotta aim a little higher when you go for those switches because you don't have gravity pulling you down so you're gonna think you're aiming for a switch with your hand something that we take for granted and you're gonna have to compensate a little bit it throws you off uh just in the beginning but it's just one of those incredible things where you you have to be up there in space to understand all the little details and yet that goes into their training as well and as you can see those those four people in the back two people in the front all down on the ground safely and we're very excited to hear what they have to say Professor Levin can we bring you in quickly I'm just curious from your perspective and your expertise Are We Now truly looking at a new age for space tourism and we've been talking about this kind of the storyline for several years but here we have yet another a full spaceship full of space tourists that has made it up to the edge of space and giving them this this example this opportunity I should say well I think that we are and where this goes is going to be interesting to see I mean we have seen some space tourists make it all the way to the International Space Station I think that's really quite incredible and um and now we're seeing these parabolic flights breaking out of the Earth's atmosphere I'm not really sure where the ambition is going to go other than just The Thrill Ride and I think that's also going to be interesting to see is is how does this become more commercialized besides The Thrill Ride and um and sort of where will it lead when we start to talk about private space stations and maybe private uh lunar stations and uh and I think the next decades I mean there's going to be a lot of changes with colonizing space and with trying to go to Mars and we'll see how much of that becomes open to regular human beings who aren't military or trained astronauts Commander Eileen Collins uh she makes a great point you know we are now looking at just more than space tourism literally there are plans in the works now to build a floating Office Park essentially a research park that is a private business where universities could go up and do research companies could go up and do bio bio biological research for example and then also provide people that opportunity if they want to go to this private floating research station Business Park to pay the money and go up and spend a week so this we really it seems like we really are on the cusp of this new frontier yeah it's a time I I really think that the primary thing we need to do is get the cost down because it is very expensive to go to space and I know that Virgin Galactic for example needs to fly well over once a week to really in the long run turn a profit now these companies have private investors and that's a very big key to their success to keeping them going and I'm happy to see that we have these big companies that are investing they see that there is potential in the future I certainly believe in that potential and you mentioned the space stations in low earth orbit now going to orbit is very very different from what Virgin Galactic and blue origin do is our astrophysicist mentioned they're going to space but they're going up and they're coming down on a relatively short flight they get a couple of minutes of microgravity but when you go to orbit these space stations that you asked about you need to have much more power much more propulsion to get up there and then to come back you need a heat shield to re-enter the Earth's atmosphere you're coming home at 25 times the speed of sound and the the engineering going to a space station is much more uh difficult much more complicated so we need to see the investment dollars coming I'm not involved in this myself I don't invest in space but I I do verbally and educationally try to promote it because I think it's the future of humanity is to get people up in space and then eventually away from Earth orbit into Mars and into other parts of the solar system Tariq Malik from all right that's a beautiful shot of that spaceship Unity sitting on the on the tarmac there on the runway I should say out in New Mexico Tariq they needed this right they needed a big high profile success for Virgin Galactic yes Tom you know not just a success but a success of a new type of of flight profile uh for Virgin Galactic you know they've had a series of successful test flights to set the stage for commercial operations and then a research point with the Italian Air Force uh back in May as their first commercial flight and now their first a full up space tours passenger flight and that's that's really the goal for this uh this company uh Sir Richard Branson build it as a passenger space line uh to fly people to space much like the very early days of Aviation to fly those those first uh passengers uh across the oceans and whatnot now we take that for granted every day and their hope to as as Commander Collins mentioned uh is is to bring that to space and provide that infrastructure that could set the stage for even higher endeavors let's go back out to our favorite new Mexican uh Gotti Schwartz who calls a New Mexico home although now we have them based in Los Angeles uh for our benefit but Gotti I'm just you've got some folks there who have some reaction and have witnessed this firsthand right yeah so we were just talking to some family members in fact the the wife of uh John and we asked her hey look you're married to an astronaut now and she you know it was quite a moment where she had the look of realization the family very excited oh one of the sons telling me about the days way back when he was a little kid they would take him uh to a picnic and he remembers one in particular where his dad John who has always been a daredevil had some sort of uh glider contraption that he had uh strapped on and was running down a hill and then kept crashing into the trees and so this this need to fly this need for the freedom of flight has always been something that John has had and now experiencing zero gravity we were just talking a little bit right I heard you talking a little bit about the future of what this looks like more humans going up into space and what the infrastructure looks like and it reminds me of some of the conversations that we've had just in the designs of uh the plane as well well as Unity the spacecraft and if you notice these the fuselage of all three the one that goes into space as well as the ones that are here on the mothership they're all the same and that's part of this modular design aimed at increasing Supply chains increasing um the the manufacturing and the assembly line if you will four things that can go up into space so the engineering is something that we saw go from a prototype back in 2003 2004 to now they are hoping by 2026 to be Mass producing uh producing at least six seven eight nine of these a year and on and on and on and so much of that has to do with a big list of high-paying customers at first with the promise of democratizing space down the way we've seen that uh other companies have embraced that type of approach and it's been some what's successful so this is something that we may see happen in the future but again it's all about these modular designs designs that can play two different roles but can exist out where there's zero gravity and no oxygen and withstand entry into Earth's atmosphere it's incredible Tom uh it is indeed so listen uh right after virgin's Richard Branson came back from his mission two years ago uh I talked to him on the ground there and he talked about this marking an important milestone for reaching for something that was hopefully within the reach of Civilian space tourists so again here's a little bit of that interview from two years ago on the ground at Spaceport with Richard Branson come down to a level where an awful lot of people will be able to do it and this has been so long in the making um my last question is how soon are you going back but look I would go back tomorrow [Applause] um but I I don't I think there's so many people want to go I won't I won't take a seat up for some time to come now and let other people uh have have the experience of a lifetime and um and we're gonna get to work our space our space factories together start building many many many many uh uh spaceships so that many many people will be able to go to space all right well that's to your point Gotti they're building many many more spaceships they got to have many many more people get up there but they've got to also they they have to make sure the people are willing to pay that kind of money absolutely willing to pay that kind of money but again you know uh maybe I watched too many movies maybe I play too many space video games like the idea of becoming an interplanetary species is something that I think a younger generation wants to see we see some kids here and so they're growing up again in a time where anyone can be an astronaut anyone can go up into space and so this idea you get up into space you see how miraculous Earth is you know there are civilization hinders that are floating around there and space the idea of in the next hundred thousand ten thousand years our species going and exploring the rest of space and possibly uh establishing other places on different planets this seems like a step in that direction Tom it does indeed uh Gotti thanks whenever we need a dose of enthusiasm we turn to Connie Schwartz in New Mexico great coverage thanks buddy uh that concludes the special coverage of the galactic II Mission here on NBC news now we're gonna have much more throughout the day on NBC News Daily and tonight on NBC Nightly News and we'll be hearing from those on board this Mission I'm Tom Costello thank you for watching on behalf of Gotti have a great day [Music] that wasn't me

2023-08-24 04:15

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