Finally, after two and a half years of failed attempts, the skies cleared, the winds calmed, and Mr Branson adjudged it safe to fly over the fields of Cambridgeshire.
It had been a Christmas present back in 2012. We had tried five times and been thwarted by mild weather conditions – such as “breezes” and “mist” – deemed too hazardous to risk a launch.
At 11pm the night before, we made the call to find out if the flight would go ahead. When it was confirmed, we finished our game of Scrabble – in a haze of excitement and disbelief – and went to bed; we’d have to be at the airfield by 5.30am in the morning.
We met 12 other bleary-eyed passengers at an empty airfield a few miles from Cambridge, and set about helping the pilot inflate the balloon. It took about an hour to get it all set up, inflated, heated and upright.