Looks like Sir Richard Branson is going to beat Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and SpaceX’s Elon Musk into space with the first fare-paying passenger load.
The billionaire entrepreneur, owner of commercial space flight company Virgin Galactic, began investing in space travel in 2004, and told CNBC his venture is “more than tantalizingly close” to its first trip to space. “We should be in space within weeks, not months. And then we will be in space with myself in months and not years. We will be in space with people not too long after that so we have got a very, very exciting couple of months ahead.”
Our Chief Pilot, Dave Mackay gives us a pilots insight into #VirginGalactic – Go check it out! https://t.co/ourcufY8aB (First published in the autumn 2018 edition of The Log, journal of the British Airline Pilots’ Association) pic.twitter.com/j3yvLkZX3a
— Virgin Galactic (@virgingalactic) October 8, 2018
Asked about consumer appetite for space travel, Branson continued, “If I have a room full of 10 people, eight out of 10 would love to go to space if they could afford it. So I think the market for people who would love to become astronauts and go to space is gigantic. And it is up to us to produce as many spaceships as we can to cater with that demand.”
Not for the faint of wallet, a ticket on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShip Two costs around $250,000 but Branson hopes to see that come down to closer to $40,000 or $50,000 by 2028.
— Virgin Galactic (@virgingalactic) July 26, 2018
Branson, now 68, has had astronaut, fitness and centrifuge training to prepare for his trip to space and to acquaint his body to gravitational forces.
The company’s original promise was suborbital spaceflight trips for tourists by 2009, but setbacks occurred from a fatal crash in 2014 that killed co-pilot Michael Alsbury.
Since then, Virgin Galactic has had several successful test flights, with vehicles reaching Mach 2, about twice the speed of sound. The plan is a space craft that can carry six passengers and two pilots above Earth.
Meanwhile, Bezos’ Blue Origin plans a manned mission into space by 2019. He recently created a nonprofit group with Airbus, the European Space Agency, Agencia Espacial Mexicana and French construction company Vinci Construction to explore ways to colonize the moon.
And Musk’s SpaceX unveiled plans for 2023 for the first lunar journey by humans since 1972.
Both Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin “will offer customers a weightless experience that will last just minutes, passing through the imaginary line marking where space begins,” reports Phys.or. “At this altitude, the sky looks dark and the curvature of the Earth can be seen clearly.”
There are 700 people are on Virgin Galactic’s waiting list.
“Space is hard—but worth it,” says Branson. “We will persevere and move forward together.”