Billionaire Richard Branson reaches space in his own ship

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This May 29, 2018 photo made available by Virgin Galactic shows the company’s VSS Unity on its second supersonic flight. After reaching nearly 50,000 feet (15,000 meters), Unity will be released from the specially designed aircraft Mothership Eve, and drop for a moment or two before its rocket motor ignites to send the craft on a steep climb toward space. (Virgin Galactic via AP)

TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES, N.M. (AP) — Thrill-seeking billionaire Richard Branson has reached space aboard his own winged rocket ship in his boldest adventure yet.

The feat vaults the nearly 71-year-old Branson past fellow billionaire and rival Jeff Bezos, who is planning to fly to space in a craft of his own nine days from now.

With about 500 people watching, including Branson’s wife, children and grandchildren, a twin-fuselage aircraft with his space plane attached underneath took off in the first stage of the flight. Aboard were Branson and five crewmates from his Virgin Galactic space-tourism company.

The space plane then detached from the mother ship at an altitude of about 8 1/2 miles (13 kilometers) and fired its engine, reaching the edge of space at about 53 miles (88 kilometers) up. After a few minutes of weightlessness for the crew, the space plane is supposed to glide to a runway landing.

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