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Virgin Galactic’s Unity spaceplane has been retired after successfully completing its 12th flight.

The space plane took off on Saturday (June 8) with two pilots, an astronaut from the Turkish Space Agency and three private individuals – and flew to the edge of space and back again.

Unity was attached to the belly of a carrier aircraft called Eve and launched from Spaceport America in New Mexico.

After reaching an altitude of 44,562 feet, Unity was released and its rocket engine ignited to fly the passengers into space and back at a top speed of Mach 2.96.

READ MORE! The first people in space describe what it is like as tourists

Astronaut reveals what it was like on board Unity

As you can imagine, the opportunity to enjoy such spectacular views of the Earth had a profound impact on the people on board.

After the trip, astronaut Tuva Atasever of the Turkish Space Agency said: “I will need much more time to process what just happened.

“It’s not something you can describe with adjectives. It’s an experience… you just feel it in your gut.”

Former Virgin Galactic customer Keisha Schahaff, who flew with her daughter last August, expressed a similar sentiment.

At the time, she said: “When I look back at our planet, I feel this deeper connection to love.

“I didn’t feel like an individual. I could actually see and feel everything that we are.”

Virgin Galactic only began commercial spaceflights last year with its first flight, Galactic 01; Saturday’s flight was Galactic 07.

In total, Unity has undertaken twelve suborbital flights – seven of them with paying passengers on board.

What’s next for Virgin Galactic?

However, if you’ve always dreamed of one day venturing into suborbital space, don’t be too discouraged – Virgin Galactic has announced that Unity will be decommissioned to make way for the new Delta-class ships, scheduled for release in 2026.

Michael Colglazier, CEO of Virgin Galactic, said in a press release: “It was a breathtaking and proud moment to watch our groundbreaking spacecraft Unity return from space on its final commercial flight. We are celebrating the ship’s unprecedented achievements in human spaceflight and looking forward to the launch of our first Delta-class ships in 2026.”

Mike Moses, President of Virgin Galactic, paid tribute to the recently retired Unity, saying: “This vehicle was revolutionary.

“We tested it, we flew it, we demonstrated it and proved to the world that commercial manned spaceflight with private funding from private companies is possible.”

He added: “Seven commercial space flights, a single vehicle flying six times in six months last year, that’s groundbreaking.

“The fact that we can use this vehicle for a month straight is truly revolutionary.”

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