Richard Branson's bid to jet into space and be back in time for the England game

Credit: PA

There’s a lot to plan with any space mission, but planning how to go to space and make it back in time to watch England in the Euros final wasn’t initially on Richard Branson’s pre-flight plan.

It is now.

As a result, at Spaceport, deep in New Mexico’s desert, there’s a big screen ready for a bit of post-space match action.

Going to space has been Branson’s lifelong dream since he watched the moon landing aged 19. He’s 70 now and at 3.30pm UK time he will begin his greatest adventure, swapping global for galactic.

He’ll travel on the Virgin spaceship Unity. I got a sneak peak and was surprised how small it seemed, nestled beneath the wings of the mothership the VSS Eve, named after his own mother.

The engineers were doing the last checks. A man with a spanner tightening things up for this moment of history. What a weight of responsibility, as Virgin Galactic send their first manned mission to space.

The aim of this trip is to ready for commercial space travel. Everyone in the six person team has a role. Branson’s is to study the traveller’s experience.

Apparently it will begin long before getting on board. A week of training at Spaceport to be sure the mind and body can cope with the adventure. How to avoid motion sickness, for one.

If you fancy yourself as a space traveller, a word to the wise… it involves a fair bit of clenching to control blood flow.

Given this will be a £200,000 plus experience there’s a lot of experience building… including a special floor for the “hero’s walk”.

That’s the bit, when booted and suited, all you wannabe astronauts get to leave the hangar.

With special lights above and a reflecting floor beneath, you get to see yourself in full astronaut get-up. I have to say I think that might be the moment motion sickness would hit me, when it suddenly felt like reality.

And then it’s off to the craft. Take off to altitude is around 45 minutes and then the big moment. Cut from the mothership, Unity’s engines fire and within a minute it’s 50 miles above Earth on the cusp of space.



When it comes to the force on the body, think a whole minute of the most ferocious pressure you’ve ever felt on a roller coaster. That’s the bit where the clenching comes in!

But, once there, it’s the calm. Three to four minutes of weightlessness as the capsule back flips to offer a view of Earth from space. Life-changing they say. I think I’d be more worried about life ending.

Within 15 minutes, according to the plan, it’s back to Earth, gravity hopefully delivering with a glide not a bang.

For Richard Branson it’s then time for the football. It could be quite a day for achieving dreams.

There is just one p.s. to this - who knew this amazing feat of engineering could be thwarted by the rain?

Because it’s made of a composite, Unity can’t cope with moisture. Rain would weaken its structure delaying or cancelling the flight.

I’m no scientist, but I think that may be the space equivalent of leaves on the line!