Is it a UFO? No, this time it’s Virgin Galactic

Read a wonderful story recently about how an amateur photographer took a shot of the night sky in Scotland and thought he captured the sonic boom from the second Virgin Galactic spaceflight.

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It was a crazy coincidence that around the same time he was taking pictures of the night sky in Scotland, we were taking the first Scotsman to space on our second spaceflight.

Christopher Andrew thought the picture could show a craft travelling at speed. While there definitely was a spaceship flying rather fast around that time - our spaceship VSS Unity flew higher and faster than ever before at Mach 3.04 to an apogee of 295,007ft - unfortunately we were on the other side of the world flying into space over California’s Mojave Desert – so it was unlikely to be us! What uncanny timing though.

He posted the picture online and then had to field calls from UFO enthusiasts trying to discern what the craft could be.

It’s not the first time I’ve been behind a UFO sighting. In one of my favourite pranks, on April Fool’s Day in 1989 we took off in a UFO and took it for a ride over London. By the time we’d reached the motorway it was beginning to get light. We could see every single vehicle grinding to a halt and hundreds of people looking up at the UFO flying over them. It was great fun watching their reactions. What we didn’t know was three police forces had been mobilised, the army had been alerted and radio and TV stations had all gone on the air about a UFO flying low over London! We even wrote Virgin Galactic Airways on the side of the UFO – years before the company became a real life commercial spaceline.

It’s great that we’re now flying spaceships for real. I find many great ideas are born from having a sense of humour.   

The historic spaceflight flight also had an additional member on board, Beth Moses, who became the first woman to fly on board a commercial spaceship. Beth is Virgin Galactic’s Chief Astronaut Instructor, who was completing cabin tests and making sure that our customer journey is as flawless as the spaceship itself. The crew enjoyed extraordinary views of Earth from the black skies of space. Beth said afterwards how sharp and in focus the view was – saying it was like Earth was wearing her diamonds that day.

View from SpaceShipTwo

This video gives a snapshot of what it’s like being a pilot for Virgin Galactic and the million dollar view looking down on Earth.

It was such a special flight and it felt very fitting to welcome Dave back to Earth with a chorus of bagpipes. We’re all looking forward to further test flights in the near future as we move steadily towards a full commercial passenger service from Spaceport America, New Mexico.

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