Branson will be the first billionaire to fly to space on a spacecraft that he funded, instead of Bezos.
Virgin Galactic had long planned to fly customers. However, its development program was stalled by several mishaps. One of these mishaps was a 2014 test flight accident that claimed the life of a copilot.
Bezos and Branson have been trying to launch suborbital rockets capable of taking wealthy thrill-seekers on short, 2,300-mile per-hour trips a few miles above Earth since the 2000s.Their efforts have been described as a “billionaire space race”.
Branson, however, has stated repeatedly in interviews that he isn’t interested in “racing to space.”
During a recent interview, he said that “people have turned it into race,” to CNN Business’ Rachel Crane.It would be extremely dangerous to call it a race.Once we have checked all boxes, we will go up. Then we will invite some people who signed up to go along with us. But we don’t really see it as a race.
Blue Origin had earlier announced that Bezos would fly with his brother Mark Bezos in June.It was later announced that Wally Funk, an 82-year old woman who had received similar training to NASA’s Mercury program but was denied the chance to fly to space, would join them. Wally Funk won an auction worth $28 million.The name of the auction winner has not been announced.
Virgin Galactic announced that Branson will be flying on Virgin Galactic’s next powered test flight from New Mexico after weeks of silence. This is a departure from previous plans to fly four mission specialists on the fourth powered test flight before Branson was allowed on board.Virgin Galactic announced Thursday in a press release that Branson would be joined by Beth Moses (the company’s head for training) and fellow Virgin Galactic employees Colin Bennett, Sirisha Bandla.
Elon Musk, the SpaceX CEO, is often mentioned in the “space race”, but the rockets SpaceX makes are much more powerful than those built by Branson or Bezos. Musk has not spoken about his personal space ambitions beyond saying he would “like to live on Mars — just on impact.”