Famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, a student of Carl Sagan, explained why, in his opinion, Richard Branson did not actually travel to space
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This article was translated from our Spanish edition using AI technologies. Errors can occur because of this process.
On July 11, billionaire Richard Branson undertook the first tourist space flight in history. The flight VSS Unity of his company Virgin Galactic was destined for the boundary between earth and space. Although the Briton has reached a historic milestone, there are some who doubt he really went into space, and one of them is the famous astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, a student of Carl Sagan.
The probe took off from Spaceport America in New Mexico at around 8:40 a.m. (local time) on Sunday. After a one-hour flight to an altitude of 15 kilometers, the probe released the spaceplane with Richard Branson and the crew so that it could leave the earth's atmosphere.
The aim of the plane was to reach the boundary between space and earth, which would be 80 km high as dictated by the US government. At this point the sky turns from blue to black, the curvature of the planet can be seen and it is possible to float in weightlessness.
After several minutes in orbit, VSS Unity landed successfully in New Mexico at 9:38 a.m. local time.
I've dreamed of this moment since I was a kid, but traveling into space was more magical than I ever imagined https://t.co/Wyzj0nOBgX # Unity22 @virgingalactic pic.twitter.com/grs7vHAzca
– Richard Branson (@richardbranson) July 11, 2021
Why does Neil deGrasse Tyson tell Richard Branson didn't go into space?
In an interview with CNN, the astrophysicist and director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space stated that, in his opinion, Richard Branson did not go into space.
“First, it was suborbital. NASA did it 60 years ago with Alan Shepard, took off from Cape Canaveral and landed in the ocean. If you are not fast enough to reach orbit, you will fall and return to Earth, ”explained deGrasse.
The moderator and science communicator also emphasized that neither Richard Branson nor Jeff Bezos were actually put into orbit.
“So have you gotten high enough? Did you go into orbit? Did you actually go anywhere? Have you flown to the moon, mars or beyond? “Asked the author.
“I am pleased that this is a new tourist attraction. I have no problem or doubt about celebrating this fact. It should have happened decades ago, it wasn't 60 years before a private company did what NASA did in 1961, ”he added.
The # Unity22 crew floats in weightlessness. Check out the flight at https://t.co/5UalYT7Hjb. @richardbranson pic.twitter.com/4DhVQHF97O
– Virgin Galactic (@virgingalactic) July 11, 2021
Next, Neil deGrasse Tyson used a globe to explain how tall the International Space Station and the orbit of a spacecraft are. In his words, if you looked at it in proportion, its orbit would be an inch from the scale model while the moon would be more than 10 meters away. However, the limit Branson reached is less than 2 millimeters below the surface.
“It's okay if you want to call it 'space' because average people have never got there and it's a first for you. Therefore, it takes eight minutes to go into orbit and three days to reach the moon. This is actually space travel. So I don't see it as & # 39; Oh, let's go into space & # 39 ;. No. What you will have is a beautiful view of the earth, ”he explained.
“I don't even know if you will see the curve. I've done some calculations and don't think so. If you are 2 millimeters from the surface of this globe, you will not have full perspective. It is a visual effect that you get from a height of 50 miles (about 80 kilometers). So have fun, ”concluded deGrasse.
In contrast, Carl Sagan's student believes that Elon Musk and his aerospace company’s project has more value.
"The concept of SpaceX is 'we want to send people to places', it is an attempt to cross this limit, this limit of space exploration," said the scientist.
Whether or not he's technically traveled in space, Sir Richard Branson's accomplishment opens a new era in space tourism. Amazon's Jeff Bezos is expected to do the same with a ship from his Blue Origin company in less than a week.