One of the greatest highlights of the past week has been the launching of Richard Branson and his crew into space. After much ado about the grand project, there are now some surprising revelations being made. Several experts have disputed these claims. The most illustrious among these names is Neil deGrasse Tyson. What is his Claim, and Why He believe so? Take a look at the following Article.
On Sunday, July 11 Richard Branson, British business magnate and founder of the Virgin Group set the stage for a space-touristic race. In a bid to beat fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos to space, he hurtled into space aboard his own winged rocket ship- the Virgin Galactic. This was aimed to one-up Bezos who had planned to reach the edge of space with a Blue Origin Spacecraft on July 20.
Niel deGrasse Tyson who is an astrophysicist and director of the Hayden Planetarium, claims that Branson did not go on space flight. “First of all, it was suborbital. NASA did it 60 years ago with Alan Shepard, took off from Cape Canaveral, and landed in the ocean. If you don’t go fast enough to reach orbit you will fall and return to Earth, ” explained deGrasse in an interview with CNN.
The stellar astrophysicist who has been a student of world-famous cosmologist Carl Sagan, put up some questions, “So, did you get high enough? Did you go into orbit? Did you actually go anywhere? Did you go to the Moon, to Mars, or beyond?”
Using a globe to show what he meant, deGrasse Tyson explained that the International Space Station and a spacecraft orbit would be 1 cm away from Earth while the moon would be as far away as 10 meters. As per this scale, Richard Branson went up to around 2 mm from the surface.
An interesting fact here pertains to the Kármán Line. It is essentially a space border. Situated at 100 kilometers above mean sea level, it is the most universally accepted space border. However, in the US, this cut-off point is much lower, at 80 kilometers. Branson’s Virgin Galactic mission achieved an altitude of 86 kilometers, while Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin flight is projected to reach a height of approximately 106 kilometers.
“I don’t even know if you’re going to see the curvature. I did some calculations and I think not. If you are 2 millimeters from the surface of this globe, you don’t have the full perspective. It is a visual effect that you get from 50 miles up (about 80 kilometers). So have fun,” he said.
But he also added at the end, “It’s okay if you want to call it ‘space’ because average humans haven’t gotten there before and it’s a first for you. That’s why it takes eight minutes to get into orbit and three days to reach the moon. That is space travel. So I don’t see it as ‘oh, let’s go into space. No. What you are going to have is a nice view of the Earth.”
He also expressed that he found more merit in the project of Elon Musk and his aerospace company. “The concept of SpaceX is ‘we want to send people to places, it is an effort to push that limit, that frontier of exploring space,” said the scientist.
Around the same time, Virgin Galactic itself admitted to having pre-recorded the video of Branson’s pre-launch bike-ride. In the video, Branson was seen riding his bike with two SUVs by his side. The entourage was headed toward New Mexico’s state-owned Spaceport America near the town of Truth or Consequences. Branson then handed his helmet to an employee upon arrival.
He is then seen greeting crewmates dressed in their flight suits with a hug, with one of them, Beth Moses, the company’s chief astronaut instructor, telling him: “You’re late, hurry up.” As per the anonymous statement given to Reuters by a Virgin Galactica official, the video in question was filmed much earlier, on July 5, and that Sir Branson did not ride his bike at all on the day of the launch.
“The footage of Sir Richard Branson shown during the event Sunday was prerecorded and misidentified in the broadcast,” they said. “We regret the error and any confusion it may have caused,” they added.
The spacecraft took off on Sunday around 8:40 a.m. (local time) from Spaceport America in New Mexico. After flying for an hour to an altitude of 15 kilometers, the spacecraft released the space plane carrying Richard Branson and the crew so that it could leave the Earth’s atmosphere. On the flight were Branson and five crewmates, including Indian aeronautical engineer Sirisha Bandla from Andhra Pradesh.
The launch was viewed live by about 500 people. Upon return, Branson congratulated the entire team. A celebrating Branson said, “Seventeen years of hard work to get us this far.” The dispute about whether or not it can really qualify as space kept aside is certainly a pioneering moment for humanity. This feat by Branson has ushered in a new age of space tourism for the world, and it is interesting to see what else is in store in the days and years to come.