Sir Richard Branson has decided to one-up fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos by announcing his flight into space on July 11, 9 days ahead of the Amazon founder’s scheduled launch. If successful, Branson (Virgin Galactic) would be the first of the ‘big three’ with space ambitions to do so, beating SpaceX founder Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos’ aerospace company, Blue Origin. Who would’ve guessed that business titans could be so competitive?!
It’s one thing to have a dream of making space more accessible to all; it’s another for an incredible team to collectively turn that dream into reality https://t.co/x0ksfnuEQ3 #Unity22 @virgingalactic pic.twitter.com/3ecEWGXQPp
— Richard Branson (@richardbranson) July 2, 2021
Sir Richard will be a passenger on his Unity rocket plane, developed in the US for nearly two decades. The vehicle can climb to an altitude of 90km (295,000ft), giving its four ‘testers’ and two pilots onboard a few minutes of weightlessness and a life-changing view of our planet Earth.
Branson’s grand plan is to introduce a commercial spaceflight service, with 600 individuals already submitting deposits to take the ride. However, this little trip up north will cost you a pretty penny, with full ticket prices rising to $330,000.
The British entrepreneur recently spoke about his company’s vision for the future. “I truly believe that space belongs to all of us. After 17 years of research, engineering and innovation, the new commercial space industry is poised to open the Universe to humankind and change the world for good”, Branson said. “It’s one thing to have a dream of making space more accessible to all; it’s another for an incredible team to collectively turn that dream into reality.”
The billionaire space race is officially on, and we wait with bated breath to see how online retail emperor Jeff Bezos responds to Branson’s announcement. Bezos has sunk a fortune into his rocket hobby and his computer-guided New Sheapard booster is currently destined to fly on July 20. Riding shotgun on the spacecraft will be his brother Mark; a mystery person who paid AUD$36 million at an auction for a seat; and eighty-two-year old famed female aviator, Wally Funk.
Both Branson’s and Bezo’s flight dates depend on weather conditions, so don’t clear your calendar just yet. Another factor is equipment glitches, with NASA missions routinely being cancelled due to last minute irregularities. For the time being, sit back and enjoy the battle between Sir Richard and Jeff, as they fight to become the first billionaire in space.
Literally, watch this space.