Billionaire Richard Branson took off Sunday from a base in New Mexico aboard a Virgin Galactic vessel bound for the edge of space, a voyage he hopes will lift the nascent space tourism industry off the ground.
A massive carrier plane made a horizontal take-off from Spaceport, New Mexico at around 8:40 am Mountain Time (1440 GMT) and will ascend for around an hour to an altitude of 50,000 feet (15 kilometers).
The mothership will then drop a rocket-powered spaceplane called VSS Unity, which will ignite its engine and ascend at Mach 3 beyond 50 miles (80 kilometers) of altitude, which marks the boundary of space according to the United States.
The spaceplane is carrying two pilots and four passengers, including Branson.
Once the rocket engine is cut off, passengers can unbuckle and experience a few minutes of weightlessness, while admiring the curvature of Earth from the ship’s 17 windows.
After peaking at around 55 miles of altitude, the ship will re-enter the atmosphere and glide back to the runway.
“It’s a beautiful day to go to space,” the brash Brit wrote in a tweet earlier where he posted a video of himself biking to the base and meeting with his crewmates, all Virgin employees.
Branson is also aiming to one up Amazon founder Jeff Bezos by winning the race to be the first tycoon to cross the final frontier in a ship built by a company he founded.
Earlier, he posted a picture of himself standing in a kitchen with SpaceX boss Elon Musk, who’d come to show his support.
Several tourists journeyed to the International Space Station in the 2000s, but on Russian rockets.
Branson’s official role is to evaluate the private astronaut experience to enhance the journey for future clients.
– Space base -Branson, who founded the Virgin Group that today has interests in everything from commercial aviation to fitness centers, is known for his appetite for adventure and has set world records in hot air ballooning and boating.
“As a child, I wanted to go to space,” the 70-year-old wrote a few days ahead of his trip.
He founded Virgin Galactic in 2004, but the dream almost came to an end in 2014 when an in-flight accident caused the death of a pilot, considerably delaying the program.
Since then, VSS Unity has successfully reached space three times, in 2018, 2019 — which included the first crew member who wasn’t a pilot — and finally May this year.
Sunday’s spaceflight takes off from Spaceport America, a huge base built in the Jornada del Muerto desert, around 20 miles southeast of the nearest dwelling, Truth or Consequences.
Financed largely by the state of New Mexico, Virgin Galactic is the principal tenant.
– Paying passengers in 2022? -After Sunday, Virgin Galactic plans two further flights, then the start of regular commercial operations from early 2022. The ultimate goal is to conduct 400 flights per year.
Some 600 tickets have already been sold to people from 60 different countries — including Hollywood celebrities — for prices ranging from $200,000 to $250,000.
And though, according to Branson, “space belongs to us all,” the opportunity for now remains the preserve of the privileged.
“When we return, I will announce something very exciting to give more people the chance to become an astronaut,” he promised.
The competition in the space tourism sector, whose imminent rise has been announced for years, has come to a head this month.
Bezos, the richest person in the world, is due to fly on July 20 on Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket.
Blue Origin posted an infographic Friday boasting the ways in which the experience it offers is superior.
The principal point: New Shepard climbs up to more than 60 miles in altitude, thus exceeding what is called the Karman line, the frontier of space according to international convention.
Bezos himself wished Branson “best of luck” in an Instagram post the following day.
Crypto is a danger to world economy, tool for money laundry- EFCC Boss
Advancement in digital assets such as cryptocurrencies increasingly portends huge risks to the world economy, the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa, has said.
This, according to Bawa, is partly because, many criminals now play significant roles in crypto-currency markets. He said the virtual currencies had become their preferred mediums of exchange.
Bawa spoke while delivering his keynote address Monday at the 38th Cambridge International Symposium on Economic Crime, themed, ‘Economic Crime-Who pays and who should pay?’
The event was organised by the Centre for International Documentation on Organised and Economic Crime (CIDOEC), Jesus College, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom.
EFCC’s spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, who captured some highlights of the event in a statement, quoting Bawa as saying, “The developments in new technologies and the growth of cryptocurrencies portrays a far greater danger to the world economy than ever before with many criminals playing significant roles in crypto-currency markets.
“Criminals now elect to transact or receive illegal monies (such as ransom money) for
cyber-attacks in cryptocurrencies with Bitcoins and Ethereum as the most commonly used mediums for these exchanges.”
He lamented that “the sophistication and complexity that defines the dynamics of economic crime in the 21st Century continues to evolve, spurred by technological advancement in the global economy that has become borderless and transnational.”
This he said had “inevitably led to the prioritisation of law enforcement action on crimes that drive Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs) across the globe”.
‘No nation is immune’
According to the EFCC Boss, “economic crimes which are largely illegal acts committed for private gain affect the vital structures of global economies, causing significant damage to the Global Financial System and depriving developing nations of the needed resources for sustainable development”.
He noted that developed countries are not immune to the scourge, which, according to him, has “magnified with the proliferation of cyber-crimes which threatens the stability of Global Financial Institutions.”
Bawa said the platform of the event provided an opportunity to interrogate the challenges of economic crimes.
“As the victims of crime continue to suffer globally from the effects of financial crimes, either directly or indirectly as part of a social system, the determination of who pays or who should pay becomes a critical measure of the criminal justice system in place.”
He underlined the imperatives of an impartial judiciary in ensuring that “the perpetrators of acts and not the victims pay for their crimes.”
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had barred commercial banks and other financial institutions from transacting with cryptocurrency in fear of the risks it poses to investments and the economy at large.
Despite these actions, there have been reports over the use of these digital or virtual currencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum and others, with criminals turning it to a haven to launder proceeds of corruption, fraud, drug trafficking, and other heinous crimes.
PRecall that last month that the United States Department of Justice training over 50 Nigerian investigators and prosecutors to tackle cryptocurrency-enabled organised crimes.
Efforts to fight crypto-related crimes
While highlighting some of the transparency and accountability achievements of the current administration by President Muhammadu Buhari, Bawa pointed out that the EFCC, as the rallying point in the fight against economic crimes in Nigeria, has recorded important milestones in investigations, prosecutions and assets recovery.
“Since its establishment in 2003, the Commission has recorded no less than 3,500 convictions and recovered assets of significant value including properties in Nigeria, the UK, USA, and the UAE. All these have measurably contributed to the national efforts against economic crimes in Nigeria,” he said.
The EFCC charged participants to come up with practical solutions to curb the international threat of economic crimes.
Meanwhile, the chairperson of the symposium, Saul Froomkin, thanked the EFCC boss for his insightful presentation, and the support received from Nigeria in organising the event.
Participants at the symposium were drawn from law enforcement and security agencies, accountability institutions and partners across the world.
SuperTV CEO: Lagos DPP to charge Chidinma Ojukwu, two others
A Yaba Chief Magistrates’ Court in Lagos State has adjourned to sept 29, further hearing in the murder of Usifo Ataga, the Chief Executive Officer of Super TV.
A 21-year-old student, Chidinma Ojukwu and one Adedapo Quadri were again presented. before the Chief Magistrate, Adeola Adedayo on Monday after they were ordered to be remanded for thirty days at the Kirikiri Correctional Centre last month.
Police Prosecutor, Cyril Ejiofor, informed the court that the Lagos State Directorate of Public Prosecution had issued a legal advice on the case, recommending their trial for murder which implies that the case will now be heard at the high court of Lagos state which has jurisdiction to hear matters of this nature
She, however, adjourned the case to await further Information from the DPP as to the status of the case at the high court that will now hear the matter.
The News Beat also gathered that the Lagos State Director of Public Prosecutions, Olayinka Adeyemi, recommended the release of four persons who are also standing trial at the Magistrate court for obstruction of justice and dishonestly receiving stolen belongings of the deceased .
The four persons are Babalola Disu, Olowu Ifeoluwa, Olutayo Abayomi, Nkechi Mogbo, Ojukwu Onoh, who is said to be Chidinma’s adopted father.
One Egbuchu Chioma who was allegedly found in possession of the deceased’s iPhone 7, and who had initially refused to release the phone on demand, is however to continue her trial.
Omoyele Sowore’s younger brother shot dead
Sahara Reporters Publisher and ex-presidential candidate, Omoyele Sowore, has narrated how kidnappers shot dead his brother in the Okada area of Edo State on Saturday.
According to him, Olajide was killed in the early hours of Saturday on his way from the Igbinedion University where he was studying Pharmacy.
Sowore, in a tribute on his Facebook page, described his deceased brother who almost clocked 50 as an “out-of-the-box thinker”
He wrote, “My immediate younger brother, Olajide Sowore was today shot and killed near Okada in Edo state by reportedly herdsmen /kidnappers on his way from Igbinedion University in Edo sate where he is studying Pharmacy.
“They snuffed out the life yet another real human being!
“Rest In Power, “Dr. Mamiye!”
“This act in itself will not delay their day of justice.
“I travelled widely with you and our father as a little kid. You were the most loved robust kid I ever first knew. You, Mr. magnet had no enemy!
“You, Mr. Sunshine Foundation who made everyone happy.
“You, the boy who snuck out his older ones to parties, taking all the blames when our disciplinarian father found out.
“You, the guy who was an out-of-the-box thinker who decided school wasn’t for you and created you own genre of music and then turned around to go to school after you almost turned 50!
“You lived your life so that everyone could be alright but now assassinated by everything that’s not alright!
“Saddest day yet!”
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