Billionaire businessmen, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Virgin’s Richard Branson, are taking competition to space by launching their own space tourism ventures and trying to outpace each other in travelling to the outer space first. After Bezos announced that he would go to space on July 20, Branson said on Thursday (July 1) that he would make it way ahead i.e. on July 11.
Virgin Group founder and British mogul Richard Branson will be a passenger on the Virgin Galactic’s Unity rocket plane’s test flight on July 11. Sir Branson aims to set a milestone in the race for commercial spaceflight service by travelling to space. This flight will be the 22nd test flight for VSS Unity and its fourth manned flight to the space.
“Virgin Galactic stands at the vanguard of a new commercial space industry, which is set to open space to humankind and change the world for good,” Branson said in a statement.
Branson was supposed to go to space after the first spaceflight test, but it seems he changed his mind after Bezos’ July 20 space travel plan. Branson will join Beth Moses, Galactic’s Chief Astronaut Instructor, Colin Bennett, Lead Operations Engineer and Sirisha Bandla, Vice President of Government Affairs in the test flight, which will be piloted by Dave Mackay and Michael “Sooch” Masucci. Two more test flights will be conducted by Virgin Galactic before the planned onset of the commercial services in 2022.
Branson’s ambition is to race ahead of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who is going to space on July 20, along with his brother, Mark, trailblazing woman pilot Wally Funk, who will become the oldest person ever to travel to space at the age of 82, and an unrevealed person who won the auction for a seat by bidding $28 million. Bezos will travel to space in New Shepard, developed by Bezos’ space tourism venture Blue Origin. Earlier this year, Bezos had announced that he would be stepping down as the CEO of Amazon to focus on his space-related pursuits.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk may not have announced a date for going to space, but his space flight company SpaceX is conducting test flights of Starship prototype spaceflights. SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said that Starship will make its maiden orbital attempt in July this year, which will start the dream mission of Elon Musk to take people to Mars by 2023. Earlier in April this year, SpaceX won a $2.9 billion contract from NASA to build a moon lander, beating Blue Origin. While Branson’s and Bezos’ vehicles will remain in space for only a few minutes, Musk’s flights have been planned to stay in the outer space for days together.
More space flights are planned for the days ahead, which are capable of going farther away than the rockets that Bezos and Branson are going to use. Even though the bids went as high as $28 million for a seat on Blue Origin and more than 600 tourists have already booked the flights of Virgin, it would be important to see how successful these commercial spaceflights are going to be.