A dramatic video lets us all fly along on Virgin Galactic's latest spaceflight, which occurred over the weekend.
The VSS Unity SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicle aced its third flight to the final frontier on Saturday morning (May 22), a test mission that was the first to lift off from Virgin Galactic's commercial hub, Spaceport America in New Mexico.
Later that day, the company released a video featuring highlights of the flight captured by cameras on Unity, on its carrier aircraft VMS Eve, and on the ground. For example, there's up-close footage of Unity separating from Eve and firing up its onboard rocket motor, which powers the winged vehicle to suborbital space.
We also get to see great shots of our home planet against the blackness of space — and hear the reaction of veteran pilots C.J. Sturckow and Dave Mackay as they take it all in.
"Wow, look at that view," one of them says in the video.
"Gorgeous," the other responds.
The 2.5-minute video also shows Unity's runway landing back at Spaceport America, which was celebrated by a cheering crowd that included billionaire Virgin Group founder Richard Branson.
Unity's first two spaceflights occurred in December 2018 and February 2019. Both of those test missions lifted off from Mojave Air and Space Port in southeastern California, near the headquarters of Virgin Galactic's manufacturing subsidiary, The Spaceship Company.
Unity will likely conduct several more test flights from Spaceport America. If those go well, the six-passenger space plane could begin flying paying customers by early next year, Virgin Galactic representatives said recently.
Virgin Galactic isn't the only company in the suborbital space tourism industry. Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin has similar aims, and its autonomous New Shepard vehicle is scheduled to fly its first customer on July 20. That person will be the winner of a seat auction that was up to $2.8 million as of this afternoon (May 24).
It's unclear how much Blue Origin will normally charge for a New Shepard ride. Virgin Galactic has sold tickets most recently for $250,000 apiece, and more than 600 people have booked a seat to date, according to the company.
Mike Wall is the author of "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.
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Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with Space.com and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.