SpaceX founder Elon Musk loves to talk about going to space. Fellow starstruck billionaire Sir Richard Branson plans to actually travel there. Next month.
He’ll ride aboard one of his own Virgin Galactic rocket ships. The Daily Beast reports Branson’s virgin space flight will coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing. American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed the Apollo Lunar Module Eagle on July 20, 1969.
It’s been an arduous journey for Virgin Galactic. Branson’s venture into for-profit space flight has taken its time to get here. The ambitious British business magnate announced long ago that Virgin would take passengers to space in 2009. When the company missed that deadline, it led many to believe his lofty goals were overhyped.
After a decade of setbacks and false starts – including most famously the tragic October 2014 crash of the VSS Enterprise, which led to the death of American pilot Michael Alsbury – Virgin has finally achieved what many thought was inconceivable.
Six months ago, on December 13th, Virgin Galactic achieved space flight for the first time. Its latest iteration of SpaceShipTwo, named Unity, marked this important milestone.
Virgin Galactic has been outdone over the years by Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Musk’s space ambitions have led to marvelous engineering feats like vertical rocket landings.
These are no mere spectacles. SpaceX’s achievements have drastically reduced the costs of space travel over NASA’s cost prohibitive space shuttle program.
While Musk’s space venture is planning to rake in consumer cash with Internet satellites and parlay the money into a manned mission to Mars by 2024, Richard Branson’s game is to provide wealthy customers the opportunity to have some fun with a short, but life-changing, visit to space.
But Elon Musk is doing that too – only he hasn’t announced plans to personally take a trip to space himself any time soon. That will give Richard Branson some bragging rights in their friendly playboy space race rivalry.
Last September, SpaceX announced it had sold its first private space flight passenger ticket, for a Big Falcon Rocket flight around the Moon in 2023.
When asked on Twitter if he would be SpaceX’s first commercial space flight passenger, Elon Musk demurred by tweeting an emoji of a Japanese flag.