Toothsome billionaire hippy Richard Branson has moved his ambitious plans for space tourism a step closer to fruition by proving that he can get his VSS Enterprise cosmic bus back on the ground without splattering its pilots.
On Sunday the music mogul's test pilots were crammed into the futuristic space glider, dragged to 45,000 feet above the Mojave desert, and let loose in what must have been a terrifying free-fall for all concerned.
The two-man crew were tasked with trying a clean release from the 'Mothership', working out the world's most expensive glider's 'stall characteristics' and practising a landing in the Californian wasteland.
The White Knight Two mothership had already carried out 40 test flights, four lugging the VSS Enterprise payload, but this was the first time the passenger-carrying space craft had been piloted.
“The VSS Enterprise was a real joy to fly, especially when one considers the fact that the vehicle has been designed not only to be a Mach 3.5 spaceship capable of going into space but also one of the world's highest-altitude gliders," said test pilot Pete Siebold.
Some 370 people with more money than sense of self-preservation have already coughed up a total of $50 million to fund beardy Branson's space tourism ambitions.
The National Geographic Channel was there to film the whole thing and will be broadcasting the footage on October 18th in the US of A. We'll probably get it in the UK at around the same time EasyJet starts doing £10 flights to the Moon.