Richard Branson did not travel to space, says famous scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson
Richard Branson made history a few days ago by becoming the first billionaire in space. Now, famous astrophysicist and science communicator Neil deGrasse Tyson has come out expressing doubts if we can call where Branson flew as space.
A prodigy of legendary space scientist Carl Sagar, deGrasse Tyson is the director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space in New York.
In a recent interview with CNN, deGrasse Tyson stated that Richard Branson did not go to space. He explained, “First of all, it was suborbital. NASA did it 60 years ago with Alan Shepard, took off from Cape Canaveral and landed in the ocean. If you don't go fast enough to reach orbit, you will fall and return to Earth.”
He put up some questions, “So, did you get high enough? Did you go into orbit? Did you actually go anywhere? Did you go to the Moon, to Mars or beyond?”
Using a globe to show what he meant, deGrasse Tyson explained that the International Space Station and a spacecraft orbit would be 1 cm away from Earth while the moon would be as far away as 10 metres. As per this scale, Richard Branson went up till around 2 mm from the surface.
DeGrasse further went on to say, “It's okay if you want to call it 'space', because average humans haven't gotten there before and it's a first for you. That's why it takes eight minutes to get into orbit and three days to reach the moon. That is actually space travel. So I don't see it as 'oh, let's go into space'. No. What you are going to have is a nice view of the Earth.”
“I don't even know if you're going to see the curvature. I did some calculations and I think not. If you are 2 millimeters from the surface of this globe, you don't have the full perspective. It is a visual effect that you get from 50 miles up (about 80 kilometers). So have fun,” he said.
Whatever the case may be, with Branson completing the first space tourist flight and fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos set to mirror the feat next week, it definitely starts a new industry.