Aerospace experts call Virgin Galactic's historic flight a new era in space tourism

Virgin Galactic says it will start flying paying customers to space on similar trips. Many are willing to pay $200K for the trip.
The Bay Area reacted to Sunday's historic flight into space as people watched Virgin Galactic Founder Richard Branson and his crew of five return to earth.

"I have dreamt of this moment since I was a kid. Nothing could prepare you for the view of space," said Branson.

The trip was a historic step in space travel.

RELATED: Billionaire Richard Branson reaches space on VSS Unity

Branson became the first person to blast off in his own spaceship from his spaceport in the New Mexico desert. Crowds gathered to watch.

In the Bay Area, many watched the launch on ABC7 News' live stream.

"It truly is thrilling we're back in space and doing it a different way," said Linda Kachiu from Santa Rosa.

"Over time, my kids might go to space instead of going to another country," she said.

WATCH: Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity takes off into space
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Watch the moment Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity takes off into space with billionaire Richard Branson on board.



Unlike traditional rockets that launch vertically, Spaceship Two Unity took off tethered to a mother ship, the VMS Eve named for Branson's late mother.

After being released from Eve, the engines ignited and the spacecraft shot up towards space, traveling more than 53 miles above the earth's surface.

Former Lockheed-Martin Sunnyvale aerospace engineer Bill Miklos, called the mission historic.

"I think what we all witnessed is the first step in the commercialization of space, just like the Wright Brothers invented powered flight," Miklos said.

WATCH: Richard Branson speaks as he looks down on Earth from space
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"It's an experience of a lifetime," Richard Branson speaks as he looks down at Earth from Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity.



Miklos volunteers at the Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos where a replica of Branson's original spaceship "One" is on display.

Branson had been scheduled to fly into space late this summer or early fall, but moved up his flight, winning the so-called billionaire "space race."

"It's puzzling why he wanted to take the risk, but I understand he's competing with Bezos," said Richard Hong from Richmond.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is scheduled to fly on his company's Blue Origin's capsule on July 20.

RELATED: Jeff Bezos going into space aboard Blue Origin flight July 20

Bezos wished Branson luck Saturday in a post on Instagram.

Virgin Galactic says it will start flying paying customers to space on similar trips, opening up a new era in human space travel.

Many are willing to pay $200,000 for the trip.

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