Sir Richard Branson hailed the “experience of a lifetime” after flying to the edge of space aboard Virgin Galactic’s first fully crewed flight.
The billionaire businessman smiled as he headed back to the planet surface after feeling the thrill of weightlessness for several minutes on Sunday afternoon.
Take-off had been delayed by about 90 minutes on Sunday due to the weather overnight at Spaceport America in New Mexico, in the US.
But video streamed live online showed the Virgin Galactic in the air at about 3.45pm UK time, and the aircraft had reached 40,000 feet by 4pm.
The spacecraft was carried up into the atmosphere by its mothership before being released so it could power up to highs of 250,000 feet.
Sir Richard and his crew reached speeds of Mach 3 on their way to the edge of space.
On the return flight, Sir Richard hailed the “experience of a lifetime” and the “hard, hard work” that went into the flight.
Out on the runway, he was greeted with cheers and hugs as he walked back to the spaceport.
Later, he told a press conference: “Like most kids I have dreamt of this moment since I was a kid but honestly nothing could prepare you for the view of Earth from space.
“The whole thing was just magical.”
He also paid tribute to scientist Stephen Hawking, who he said it was an “honour” to know.
On the ground, Michael Colglazier, chief executive of Virgin Galactic, said: “This is a landmark moment for Virgin Galactic.
“It’s a landmark moment for the new commercial space industry and it certainly is a landmark moment for our founder Richard Branson.”
He said the company’s work on Sunday was dedicated to “opening up space to all”.
Tourists are expected to pay 250,000 US dollars (£180,000) for a spaceflight on Virgin Galactic, which includes four minutes of zero gravity.