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Richard Branson takes off in first-ever fully crewed flight to the edge of space

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Virgin founder Richard Branson has blasted off for his journey to the edge of space.

The 70-year-old took off from Spaceport America, New Mexico at around 3.30 pm to secure his victory in the space race against Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk.

The team involved in the mission consists of Branson, who is Astronaut 001, chief astronaut Beth Moses (Astronaut 002), lead operations engineer Colin Bennett (Astronaut 003) and Virgin Galactic vice-president Sirisha Bandla (Astronaut 004).

Tweeting about his arrival for the launch, Branson said: "It’s a beautiful day to go to space. We’ve arrived at @Spaceport_NM. Get ready to watch LIVE at 7:30 am PT | 10:30 am ET | 3:30 pm BST."

The journey will take Branson between 55 to 65 miles up into the air and he will reach the edge of space in what he hopes will become a commercial adventure for thrill-seekers.

Celebrities such as Tom Hanks and Lady Gaga have already signed up for commercialised trips to space with whichever billionaire makes it there first.

Branson said: "It is time to turn my dream into a reality.

“As a child I wanted to go to space. When that did not look likely for my generation I registered the name Virgin Galactic with the notion of creating a company that could make it happen.”

The Virgin tycoon has invested 16 years and more than £1billion in order to make the trip to the edge of space, paving the way for the potentially lucrative space tourism industry.

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Getting to this stage has not been a smooth ride, setbacks included a catastrophic crash in the Mojave Desert which killed co-pilot Michael Alsbury and seriously injured pilot Peter Siebold.

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