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Selective: Richard Branson's Claim to Space

Tracy Davenport Tracy Davenport
12th July 2021
Selective: Richard Branson's Claim to Space
Experts disagree on the meaning of space (Getty Images).

The Claim

 Richard Branson didn’t reach space.

Emerging story

Richard Branson went on a space mission on July 11, 2021. Many on social media claim that his trip fell short of an actual trip into space. 

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Misbar’s Analysis

Misbar discovered that on July 11, 2021, Virgin Group founder Richard Branson and crew boarded the spacecraft VSS Unity for a flight that lasted approximately one hour before landing back at the spaceport facility in New Mexico according to the Wall Street Journal. The space plane flew approximately 50 miles above the desert. 

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As part of their commercial space transportation activities, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires the flight to be beyond 50 statute miles above the surface of the Earth to be considered part of their space transportation activities. 

A competing space company owned by billionaire Jeff Bezos has a different idea about where space begins. According to a Blue Origin tweet, only 4% of the world recognizes 50 miles above earth as the start of space and referred to the Branson vehicle as a high altitude plane versus a rocket. 

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There is long standing disagreement over where the earth’s atmosphere ends and space begins. In addition to the FAA, the U.S. military and NASA say space begins about 50 miles above earth. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) considers the beginning of space to be designated by an imaginary line about 62 miles above sea level called the Karman Line. A paper published in Acta Astronautica suggests the inner edge of outer space from a historical, physical, and technological viewpoint is better at 80km than the 100km Karman Line. However, according to Astronomy.com, the United Nations has historically accepted the Karman line as the boundary of space.

To conclude, Branson’s trip was considered by multiple space experts and governing bodies to have crossed the threshold into space, even though others believe he needed to go beyond the Karman Line to be considered a true astronaut. 

Misbar’s Classification


Misbar’s Sources

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