Elon Musk splashes out $250,000 (£180,000) for Virgin Galactic ticket

SpaceX founder Elon Musk has purchased a ticket to fly to the edge of space with Virgin Galactic, according to the space firm, who are celebrating the launch of Sir Richard Branson into space on Sunday. 

Mr Musk paid a $10,000 (£7,000) deposit to reserve a seat with Branson’s space tourism firm, with the final ticket price rumoured to be about $250,000 (£180,000). 

However, a trip to space with SpaceX is expected to be significantly more expensive, with space tourism firm Axiom Space selling tickets on a Crew Dragon capsule, with a 10 day stay on the ISS for $55 million (£39 million).

Closer to Earth, Virgin Galactic is also offering a pair of tickets as part of a competition, to ‘open up space for everyone,’ according to Branson, who said he wanted everyone from any background to have access to space.

Branson travelled 53.5 miles above the surface of the Earth, taking him and five crew mates to the edge of space where they experienced weightlessness and earning their astronaut wings, pinned on them by veteran Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield.

Branson told the Today show on NBC this morning: ‘Once you’re an astronaut, you’re always an astronaut.’

Speaking to a crowd of spectators after his flight, Branson said: ‘Like most kids, I have dreamt of this moment since I was kid. But nothing can prepare you for the view of Earth from space, the whole thing was just magical.’ 

This not only saw him gain his astronaut wings, but also win the ‘billionaire space race’ between himself, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and SpaceX founder Elon Musk, who was at Spaceport America in New Mexico to watch the historic flight. 

‘Elon’s a friend and maybe I’ll travel on one of his ships one day,’ Branson said, after confirming that he Musk had purchased his ticket. 

Once Virgin Galactic begin commercial operations, they hope to operate more than one flight per day out of Spaceport America but will first replace the VSS Unity prototype with a pair of new craft more easily maintained and allowing for faster turnaround and up to 400 flights per year from each spaceport they operate out of.

With just 550 people going to space so far since Yuri Gagarin left the Earth in 1961, flying daily with the six person cabin, Branson’s firm could double the number of people holding astronaut wings in under 100 days.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk has purchased a ticket to fly to the edge of space with Virgin Galactic, according to the space firm, fresh from the launch of Sir Richard Branson into space on Sunday

SpaceX founder Elon Musk has purchased a ticket to fly to the edge of space with Virgin Galactic, according to the space firm, fresh from the launch of Sir Richard Branson into space on Sunday

SpaceX founder Elon Musk has purchased a ticket to fly to the edge of space with Virgin Galactic, according to the space firm, fresh from the launch of Sir Richard Branson into space on Sunday

Branson travelled 53.5 miles above the surface of the Earth, taking him and five crew mates to the edge of space where they experienced weightlessness, telling the Today show on NBC this morning: ‘Once you’re an astronaut, you’re always an astronaut'

Branson travelled 53.5 miles above the surface of the Earth, taking him and five crew mates to the edge of space where they experienced weightlessness, telling the Today show on NBC this morning: ‘Once you’re an astronaut, you’re always an astronaut'

Branson travelled 53.5 miles above the surface of the Earth, taking him and five crew mates to the edge of space where they experienced weightlessness, telling the Today show on NBC this morning: ‘Once you’re an astronaut, you’re always an astronaut’

Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson(L), with Sirisha Bandla on his shoulders, cheers with crew members after flying into space aboard a Virgin Galactic vessel, a voyage he described as the "experience of a lifetime"

Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson(L), with Sirisha Bandla on his shoulders, cheers with crew members after flying into space aboard a Virgin Galactic vessel, a voyage he described as the "experience of a lifetime"

Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson(L), with Sirisha Bandla on his shoulders, cheers with crew members after flying into space aboard a Virgin Galactic vessel, a voyage he described as the ‘experience of a lifetime’

Sir Richard Branson’s date with destiny 

While speaking as a guest on the BBC’s Going Live! in 1988, the seeds of Sir Richard Branson’s dreams of going into space were planted. 

After a short pause, he grinned as he told caller Shihan Mustafer that he would ‘love to go into space, as I think pretty well everybody watching this show would love to go to space.’

As a wide-eyed boy in July 1969, the British entreprenuer watched on as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin touched down on the moon’s surface in the world’s most iconic space landing.

And in a short video shared to social media before Sunday’s launch, Branson recalls: ‘I remember my dad taking me outside onto the village green and we just looked up at the moon.

‘I really did think myself and other young people would one day be able to go into space.’

That dream would start slowly becoming reality in 2004, after he founded Virgin Galactic. Four years later, he promised regular passenger trips for ‘ordinary people’ to and from suborbital space. 

Advertisement

Branson said the goal was to open space to as many people as possible, announcing the new ticket competition, run by for-profit fundraising firm Omaze.  

It will operate as a sweepstake, with a pair of tickets, which could be worth well over $500,000 (£360,000), up for grabs.

There is no cost to enter, but you can donate to the Space for Humanity foundation, launched to promote space travel and train future leaders, in return for more entries.

Branson says he envisions a future world in which ‘people of all backgrounds, any gender, any ethnicity, have equal access to space.’

Bezos is scheduled to fly in the Blue Origin New Shepard rocket on Tuesday, May 20, which is also the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. 

Branson’s flight, the first fully crewed trip to space for Virgin Galactic, was intended as a confidence-boosting plug for the firm, which plans to start taking paying customers on a short trip, allowing them to become astronauts, from 2022.  

The 70-year-old British entrepreneur pumped his fists in the air as he stepped onto the runway in New Mexico before skipping towards his daughter Holly’s twins Etta and Artie and scooping them up in his arms.

Branson, who said he had dreamed about travelling to space since childhood, shared a group hug with the rest of his family including his wife Joan Templeman, his son Sam and granddaughter Eva-Deia.

He was one of six Virgin Galactic employees aboard VSS Unity for the voyage to 280,000ft, each there to test a different aspect of the flight ahead of commercial operations in 2022.

He was joined in space by chief pilot David Mackay, a Scottish-born test pilot for the Royal Air Force who went on to fly for Sir Richard’s Virgin Atlantic, and chief flight instructor Michael Masucci in the cockpit.

Also onboard with Branson in the cabin was chief astronaut instructor Beth Moses, a former NASA engineer, lead operations engineer Colin Bennett and Sirisha Bandla, a company vice president. 

Branson's flight, the first fully crewed trip to space for Virgin Galactic, was intended as a confidence-boosting plug for the firm, which plans to start taking paying customers on a short trip, allowing them to become astronauts, from 2022

Branson's flight, the first fully crewed trip to space for Virgin Galactic, was intended as a confidence-boosting plug for the firm, which plans to start taking paying customers on a short trip, allowing them to become astronauts, from 2022

Branson’s flight, the first fully crewed trip to space for Virgin Galactic, was intended as a confidence-boosting plug for the firm, which plans to start taking paying customers on a short trip, allowing them to become astronauts, from 2022

Speaking to a crowd of spectators after his flight, Branson said: 'Like most kids, I have dreamt of this moment since I was kid. But nothing can prepare you for the view of Earth from space, the whole thing was just magical'

Speaking to a crowd of spectators after his flight, Branson said: 'Like most kids, I have dreamt of this moment since I was kid. But nothing can prepare you for the view of Earth from space, the whole thing was just magical'

Speaking to a crowd of spectators after his flight, Branson said: ‘Like most kids, I have dreamt of this moment since I was kid. But nothing can prepare you for the view of Earth from space, the whole thing was just magical’ 

Branson said the goal was to open space to as many people as possible, announcing the new ticket competition, run by for-profit fundraising firm Omaze

Branson said the goal was to open space to as many people as possible, announcing the new ticket competition, run by for-profit fundraising firm Omaze

Branson said the goal was to open space to as many people as possible, announcing the new ticket competition, run by for-profit fundraising firm Omaze

He was joined in space by chief pilot David Mackay, a Scottish-born test pilot for the Royal Air Force who went on to fly for Sir Richard's Virgin Atlantic, and chief flight instructor Michael Masucci in the cockpit

He was joined in space by chief pilot David Mackay, a Scottish-born test pilot for the Royal Air Force who went on to fly for Sir Richard's Virgin Atlantic, and chief flight instructor Michael Masucci in the cockpit

He was joined in space by chief pilot David Mackay, a Scottish-born test pilot for the Royal Air Force who went on to fly for Sir Richard’s Virgin Atlantic, and chief flight instructor Michael Masucci in the cockpit

Branson’s daughter Holly described watching her dad travel to space as being an ’emotional journey’. 

‘I am truly lost for words and have never felt so many butterflies in my stomach,’ she wrote on Instagram.

Branson arrived at Spaceport America on a bicycle, ready to climb aboard the mothership, VMS Eve, named for his late mother who was supposed to travel with him, but died before the ship was ready for passengers. 

His flight was watched by his wife, children and grandchildren as he fulfilled his life long dream to see the Earth from space. 

‘Dad has dreamt about this day since he was a little kid, but said that going to space was more magical than he ever imagined,’ Holly said. ‘It was more magical and emotional to watch than I could have ever imagined too.’   

Virgin Galactic doesn't expect to start flying customers before next year. Blue Origin has yet to open ticket sales or even announce prices, but late last week boasted via Twitter that it would take clients higher and offer bigger windows

Virgin Galactic doesn't expect to start flying customers before next year. Blue Origin has yet to open ticket sales or even announce prices, but late last week boasted via Twitter that it would take clients higher and offer bigger windows

Virgin Galactic doesn’t expect to start flying customers before next year. Blue Origin has yet to open ticket sales or even announce prices, but late last week boasted via Twitter that it would take clients higher and offer bigger windows

Branson's daughter Holly described watching her dad travel to space as being an 'emotional journey'

Branson's daughter Holly described watching her dad travel to space as being an 'emotional journey'

Branson’s daughter Holly described watching her dad travel to space as being an ’emotional journey’

'I am truly lost for words and have never felt so many butterflies in my stomach,' she wrote on Instagram

'I am truly lost for words and have never felt so many butterflies in my stomach,' she wrote on Instagram

‘I am truly lost for words and have never felt so many butterflies in my stomach,’ she wrote on Instagram

Speaking to a crowd of spectators afterwards, Branson said: 'Like most kids, I have dreamt of this moment since I was kid. But nothing can prepare you for the view of Earth from space, the whole thing was just magical'

Speaking to a crowd of spectators afterwards, Branson said: 'Like most kids, I have dreamt of this moment since I was kid. But nothing can prepare you for the view of Earth from space, the whole thing was just magical'

Speaking to a crowd of spectators afterwards, Branson said: ‘Like most kids, I have dreamt of this moment since I was kid. But nothing can prepare you for the view of Earth from space, the whole thing was just magical’

THE UNITY 22 CREW 

Beth Moses, Chief Astronaut Instructor at Virgin Galactic

Moses will serve as cabin lead and test director in space, overseeing the safe and efficient execution of the test flight objectives 

Colin Bennett, Lead Operations Engineer at Virgin Galactic 

Bennett will evaluate cabin equipment, procedures, and experience during both the boost phase and in the weightless environment 

Sirisha Bandla, Vice President of Government Affairs and Research Operations at Virgin Galactic 

Bandla will be evaluating the human-tended research experience, using an experiment from the University of Florida that requires several handheld fixation tubes that will be activated at various points in the flight profile. 

Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic 

Sir Richard will evaluate the private astronaut experience and will undergo the same training, preparation and flight as Virgin Galactic’s future astronauts. 

Virgin Galactic will use his observations from his flight training and spaceflight experience to enhance the journey for all future astronaut customers. 

The pilots 

The pilots for this mission are Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci flying VSS Unity, and CJ Sturckow and Kelly Latimer flying VMS Eve. 

Advertisement

Branson was original scheduled to go on the next test flight, but moved his trip forward after Jeff Bezos announced he would go to space on July 20.

This created a rivalry with Blue Origin, who also hope to offer paying customers the chance to experience a few minutes of weightlessness and spaceflight. 

Bezos offered his congratulations to Branson on his maiden voyage into space, saying he ‘can’t wait to join the club!’. 

There are over 600 people who have been waiting as much as a 15 years for a chance to travel up to space in the spaceplane.

Tourists are expected to pay 250,000 US dollars (£180,000) for a spaceflight on Virgin Galactic, which includes four minutes of zero gravity. 

‘The mission statement that I wrote inside my space suit was to turn the dream of space travel into a reality for my grandchildren, for your grandchildren and for many people alive today, for everybody,’ Branson said. 

‘We are here to make space more accessible to all and we want to turn the next generation f dreamers into the astronauts of today and tomorrow.’

Speaking of the competition, he said ‘every donation supports a charity called space for humanity and you will be entered into a sweepstake for a chance to win not one, but two seats aboard one of the first Virgin Galactic spaceflights.’ 

As well as becoming an astronaut, competition winners will also join Sir Richard Branson for a personal VIP tour of Spaceport America.

Omaze, who is running the competition, which is free to enter, wrote on a post promoting the competition: 

‘You and your guest will board a Virgin Galactic spaceship where you’ll take off smoothly, just like an airplane, and watch as the colours outside your window change from blue to indigo to midnight black.

‘Hovering above Earth, nothing can prepare you for the breathtaking views of our bright planet and surrounding galaxy. Or hearing ‘you are now free to float about the cabin.’

It isn’t yet clearly exactly when the winner will fly, but Branson said it would be on one of the first trips. 

Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson, left, receives a Virgin Galactic made astronaut wings pin from Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield after his flight to space from Spaceport America near Truth or Consequences

Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson, left, receives a Virgin Galactic made astronaut wings pin from Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield after his flight to space from Spaceport America near Truth or Consequences

Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson, left, receives a Virgin Galactic made astronaut wings pin from Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield after his flight to space from Spaceport America near Truth or Consequences

Astronaut Chris Hadfield holds wings before presenting to crew members. Every future astronaut flying with Virgin Galactic will receive the pin, with Branson declaring 'once an astronaut, always an astronaut'

Astronaut Chris Hadfield holds wings before presenting to crew members. Every future astronaut flying with Virgin Galactic will receive the pin, with Branson declaring 'once an astronaut, always an astronaut'

Astronaut Chris Hadfield holds wings before presenting to crew members. Every future astronaut flying with Virgin Galactic will receive the pin, with Branson declaring ‘once an astronaut, always an astronaut’

Bezos posted to Instagram: ''@richardbransonand crew, congratulations on the flight. Can't wait to join the club!'

Bezos posted to Instagram: ''@richardbransonand crew, congratulations on the flight. Can't wait to join the club!'

Bezos posted to Instagram: ”@richardbransonand crew, congratulations on the flight. Can’t wait to join the club!’

So far just over 550 people have been to space, defined by the 50 mile limit suggested by NASA, but that number could double in a couple of years with the advent of sub-orbital space tourism

So far just over 550 people have been to space, defined by the 50 mile limit suggested by NASA, but that number could double in a couple of years with the advent of sub-orbital space tourism

So far just over 550 people have been to space, defined by the 50 mile limit suggested by NASA, but that number could double in a couple of years with the advent of sub-orbital space tourism

Sir Richard Branson’s message to ‘the next generation of dreamers’

I have dreamt about this moment since I was a child, but nothing could have prepared me for the view of Earth from space. It was magical.

I was honoured to test the incredible customer experience onboard Virgin Galactic’s spaceship VSS Unity as part of this remarkable crew of mission specialists – and now astronauts.

How you feel when you look down on Earth is impossible to put into words, it’s just indescribable beauty. I can’t wait for you all to get up there.  

I want to say an enormous thank you to everyone who believed in Virgin Galactic and the team who have worked so hard to make this dream come true; our pilots; my fellow mission specialists Beth, Colin and Sirisha; to everyone who joined us at Spaceport America and to everyone who watched along on the livestream (and for the brilliant performance Khalid – we loved listening along on our beautiful glide to Earth). 

And thank you to my incredible family – my beautiful wife Joan, Holly and Sam, our grandchildren and all our friends for everything. I love you. 

My mission statement, which I wrote inside my spacesuit, is to turn the dream of space travel into a reality – for my grandchildren, for your grandchildren, for everyone. 

I said a message to all children while I was in space: I was once a child with a dream looking up to the stars. Now I’m an adult in a spaceship looking down to our beautiful Earth. To the next generation of dreamers: if we can do this, just imagine what you can do.

Having flown to space, I can see even more clearly how Virgin Galactic is the spaceline for Earth. 

We are here to make space more accessible to all and turn the next generation of dreamers into the astronauts of today and tomorrow.

Imagine a world where people of all ages and backgrounds, from anywhere, of any gender, of any ethnicity have equal access to space. They will in turn, inspire us all back here on Earth.

If you’ve ever had a dream, now is the time to make it come true. Welcome to the dawn of a new space age. 

Advertisement

‘Cameras throughout the cabin will record every moment in HD. With 17 circular windows for viewing, every seat is a window seat. And there’s even a mirror to watch yourself floating through space.

‘Following a smooth glide descent, you’ll return back to Earth safely, but forever transformed. You’re an astronaut now.’

So far just over 550 people have been to space, defined by the 50 mile limit suggested by NASA, but that number could double in a couple of years with the advent of sub-orbital space tourism.

Virgin Galactic isn’t the only space firm using the offer of a ticket to raise money for charity. Blue Origin ran a $28 million auction for a ticket on the first crewed test flight, alongside Bezos, his brother and female astronaut Wally Funk.

The Blue Origin passengers will spend at least 10 minutes floating in zero gravity inside the capsule during the suborbital sightseeing trip. 

Blue Origin named the New Shepard program after astronaut Alan Shepard, who was the first American to fly into space 60 years ago. 

But Branson has arguably ‘won the space race’ by pipping Bezos to the post by just nine days, as well as SpaceX founder Elon Musk, who tweeted, ‘Congratulations, beautiful flight!’

Sunday’s launch was hailed a ‘landmark moment’ for Branson, as well as the whole commercial space industry.

Take-off had been delayed by about 90 minutes on Sunday due to the weather overnight at Spaceport America in New Mexico, in the US.

Footage streamed live online showed the Virgin Galactic in the air at about 3.45pm UK time, and the aircraft had reached 40,000 feet by 4pm. 

The spacecraft was carried up into the atmosphere by its mothership, the VSS Unity, before being released so it could power up to highs of 250,000 feet. 

Sir Richard and his crew reached speeds of Mach 3 on their way to the edge of space. 

After a short spell during which they experienced weightlessness, the craft then pointed downwards and made its way back to the ground, touching down around 4.40pm.

On the return flight, Sir Richard hailed the ‘experience of a lifetime’ and the ‘hard, hard work’ that went into the flight. 

Speaking to a crowd of spectators afterwards, Branson said: ‘Like most kids, I have dreamt of this moment since I was kid. But nothing can prepare you for the view of Earth from space, the whole thing was just magical.’ 

Sir Richard later posted a video of himself while onboard Unity, saying: ‘To all you kids down there, I was once a child with a dream, looking up to the stars. Now I’m an adult in a spaceship, with lots of other wonderful adults looking down at our beautiful, beautiful Earth. 

While in space, shortly before England lost to Italy on penalties in the EURO final, lead operations engineer Colin Bennett, top, shows a message for the England teaem, saing 'it's coming home'

While in space, shortly before England lost to Italy on penalties in the EURO final, lead operations engineer Colin Bennett, top, shows a message for the England teaem, saing 'it's coming home'

While in space, shortly before England lost to Italy on penalties in the EURO final, lead operations engineer Colin Bennett, top, shows a message for the England teaem, saing ‘it’s coming home’

Sir Richard later posted a video of himself while onboard Unity, saying: 'To all you kids down there, I was once a child with a dream, looking up to the stars. Now I'm an adult in a spaceship, with lots of other wonderful adults looking down at our beautiful, beautiful Earth

Sir Richard later posted a video of himself while onboard Unity, saying: 'To all you kids down there, I was once a child with a dream, looking up to the stars. Now I'm an adult in a spaceship, with lots of other wonderful adults looking down at our beautiful, beautiful Earth

Sir Richard later posted a video of himself while onboard Unity, saying: ‘To all you kids down there, I was once a child with a dream, looking up to the stars. Now I’m an adult in a spaceship, with lots of other wonderful adults looking down at our beautiful, beautiful Earth

‘To the next generation of dreamers, if we can do this, just imagine what you can do,’ Branson said to the crowd waiting to greet him after his trip to space.

He also paid tribute to the late scientist Stephen Hawking, who he said it was an ‘honour’ to know.

On the ground, Michael Colglazier, chief executive of Virgin Galactic, said: ‘This is a landmark moment for Virgin Galactic. 

‘It’s a landmark moment for the new commercial space industry and it certainly is a landmark moment for our founder Richard Branson.’

The Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo space plane Unity and mothership separate flying way above Spaceport America, near Truth and Consequences, New Mexico on July 11, 2021 on the way to the cosmos

The Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo space plane Unity and mothership separate flying way above Spaceport America, near Truth and Consequences, New Mexico on July 11, 2021 on the way to the cosmos

The Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo space plane Unity and mothership separate flying way above Spaceport America, near Truth and Consequences, New Mexico on July 11, 2021 on the way to the cosmos

Virgin Galactic's passenger rocket plane VSS Unity, carrying billionaire Richard Branson and crew, starts its engine before commencing it ascent to the edge of space above Spaceport America near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico

Virgin Galactic's passenger rocket plane VSS Unity, carrying billionaire Richard Branson and crew, starts its engine before commencing it ascent to the edge of space above Spaceport America near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico

Virgin Galactic’s passenger rocket plane VSS Unity, carrying billionaire Richard Branson and crew, starts its engine before commencing it ascent to the edge of space above Spaceport America near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico

He said the company’s work on Sunday was dedicated to ‘opening up space to all’. 

The firm have some lofty ambitions in space, hoping to one day have up to a dozen spacecraft operating out of a number of spaceports around the world – with 400 trips from each spaceport every year.

In an earlier interview for MailOnline, Colglazier said they had to first move to a more agile fleet, with new versions of the spaceship that area easier to adapt, maintain and operate.

He said one day it could bee possible to use the Mothership and Spaceship combination to operate point to point flights around the world, but wouldn’t say whether that was an active goal of the firm. 

On the ground, Michael Colglazier, chief executive of Virgin Galactic, said: 'This is a landmark moment for Virgin Galactic'

On the ground, Michael Colglazier, chief executive of Virgin Galactic, said: 'This is a landmark moment for Virgin Galactic'

On the ground, Michael Colglazier, chief executive of Virgin Galactic, said: ‘This is a landmark moment for Virgin Galactic’

Jeff Bezos posts a message to Richard Branson (pictured) on July 10, 2021: @richardbranson wishing you and the whole team a successful and safe flight tomorrow. Best of luck!'

Jeff Bezos posts a message to Richard Branson (pictured) on July 10, 2021: @richardbranson wishing you and the whole team a successful and safe flight tomorrow. Best of luck!'

Jeff Bezos posts a message to Richard Branson (pictured) on July 10, 2021: @richardbranson wishing you and the whole team a successful and safe flight tomorrow. Best of luck!’

Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo space plane Unity and mothership separate as they fly way above Spaceport America, near Truth and Consequences, New Mexico on July 11, 2021 on the way to the cosmos

Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo space plane Unity and mothership separate as they fly way above Spaceport America, near Truth and Consequences, New Mexico on July 11, 2021 on the way to the cosmos

Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo space plane Unity and mothership separate as they fly way above Spaceport America, near Truth and Consequences, New Mexico on July 11, 2021 on the way to the cosmos 

Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos (pictured) has an estimated personal worth of $186.2 billion (£131.5 billion)

Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos (pictured) has an estimated personal worth of $186.2 billion (£131.5 billion)

Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos (pictured) has an estimated personal worth of $186.2 billion (£131.5 billion)

Blue Origin: Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ intergalactic dream

Blue Origin was formed by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in 2000.

The firm’s mission statement reads on its website: ‘We’re committed to building a road to space so our children can build the future.’ 

It’s believed the company is largely propped from the American billionaire’s own back pocket, selling millions of pounds worth of Amazon stock each year to fund his aerospace company.

Bezos outlined Blue Origin’s intergalactic plans in a revealing interview in 2017, explaining his visions of colonies on the moon and harvesting resources from asteroids.

He said: ‘I want my grandchildren’s grandchildren to be in a world of pioneering, exploration and expansion throughout the solar system.’

Advertisement

Mike Moses, a top executive at Virgin Galactic, said the flight was ‘perfect’ aside from some issues with the transmission of images from inside the cabin. He added the spacecraft looked pristine upon its return.  

‘That was an amazing accomplishment,’ former Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, a one-time commander of the International Space Station, said. ‘I’m just so delighted at what this open door is going to lead to now. It’s a great moment.’     

In a statement posted after the flight, Sir Richard said ‘how you feel when you look when you look down on Earth is impossible to put into words, it’s just indescribable beauty. I can’t wait for you all to get up there.’ 

The businessman added: ‘Imagine a world where people of all ages and backgrounds, from anywhere, of any gender, of any ethnicity have equal access to space. They will in turn, inspire us all back here on Earth.

‘If you’ve ever had a dream, now is the time to make it come true. Welcome to the dawn of a new space age.’

Sir Richard also confirmed plans to ‘turn the next generation of dreamers into the astronauts of today’.

This was said while announcing an Omaze sweepstake for the chance to win two seats aboard one of the first commercial Virgin Galactic flights. 

Other firms operating in the commercial space sector sent their congratulations. Rocket Lab wrote: ‘Congratulations to @richardbranson and the @virgingalactic team. A big day for space!’ 

Branson was handed his astronaut wings by veteran Canadian astronaut Commander Chris Hadfield, who also co-hosted the media coverage of the event. 








Branson floats in zero gravity on board Virgin Galactic's passenger rocket plane VSS Unity

Branson floats in zero gravity on board Virgin Galactic's passenger rocket plane VSS Unity

Branson floats in zero gravity on board Virgin Galactic’s passenger rocket plane VSS Unity

Branson delivering a message from space aboard SpaceShip Two Unity 22 during their flight after take off from Spaceport America, New Mexico, US

Branson delivering a message from space aboard SpaceShip Two Unity 22 during their flight after take off from Spaceport America, New Mexico, US

Branson delivering a message from space aboard SpaceShip Two Unity 22 during their flight after take off from Spaceport America, New Mexico, US

Branson (pictured in the cabin of VSS Unity), Bezos and Musk, who have a combined net worth exceeding $380 billion (£274 billion), have poured their near limitless resources into their respective space start-ups in the hopes of revolutionising aerospace journeys.

Branson (pictured in the cabin of VSS Unity), Bezos and Musk, who have a combined net worth exceeding $380 billion (£274 billion), have poured their near limitless resources into their respective space start-ups in the hopes of revolutionising aerospace journeys.

Branson (pictured in the cabin of VSS Unity), Bezos and Musk, who have a combined net worth exceeding $380 billion (£274 billion), have poured their near limitless resources into their respective space start-ups in the hopes of revolutionising aerospace journeys.

Branson was pictured ahead of his historic flight today with SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk, who will travel to space with Virgin in the near future.

Musk, 50, and Branson, 70, were snapped ahead of Sunday’s journey to space alongside the message: ‘Big day ahead. Great to start the morning with a friend.’  

Branson, Bezos and Musk, who have a combined net worth exceeding $380 billion (£274 billion), have poured their near limitless resources into their respective space start-ups in the hopes of revolutionising aerospace journeys. 

The group have all said that they were inspired by the first moon landing in 1969, when the US beat the Soviet Union in the space race, and had previously said how much it would mean for each to win the ‘new space race’.

Although SpaceX and Tesla founder Musk has said he wants to go into space, and even ‘die on Mars’, he has not said when he might blast into orbit.  

Branson, left, sprays champagne to crew member Beth Moses while celebrating their flight to space from Spaceport America near Truth or Consequences, N.M., Sunday

Branson, left, sprays champagne to crew member Beth Moses while celebrating their flight to space from Spaceport America near Truth or Consequences, N.M., Sunday

Branson, left, sprays champagne to crew member Beth Moses while celebrating their flight to space from Spaceport America near Truth or Consequences, N.M., Sunday

Branson wears his astronaut's wings at a news conference, after flying with a crew in Virgin Galactic's passenger rocket plane VSS Unity

Branson wears his astronaut's wings at a news conference, after flying with a crew in Virgin Galactic's passenger rocket plane VSS Unity

Branson wears his astronaut’s wings at a news conference, after flying with a crew in Virgin Galactic’s passenger rocket plane VSS Unity

Elon Musk’s SpaceX revolution 

SpaceX was founded by Silicon Valley tycoon Elon Musk in 2002, with the promise of revolutionising intergalactic travel with commercial journeys to space. 

Mr Musk has long envisioned affordable aerospace travel as a reality, and has invested billions into making that dream a reality.

His high-risk, high-reward bet in space travel has paid off massively, with SpaceX being valued at more than $70 billion (£50.35bn).

Musk, the son of an ambitious engineering father in Pretoria, South Africa, grew up reading comic books and writing computer software.

And Musk set himself on a dramatic collision course with history, when he was convinced he would be the one to make space travel cheaper.

He achieved that goal when SpaceX successfully launched the Falcon 1 rocket in September 2008 – earning the company a lucrative $1 billion contract to service the International Space Station. 

Advertisement

Before climbing aboard, Branson signed the astronaut log book and wisecracked: ‘The name’s Branson. Sir Richard Branson. Astronaut 001. License to thrill.’

The flamboyant billionaire, who was pictured cycling to the facility this morning, is the second oldest person to travel to space – after 77-year-old John Glenn in 1998. 

However, he will drop to become the third oldest once space pioneer Wally Funk, 82, travels to space with Blue Origin’s New Shepard next week. 

Sir Richard told the Times the view alone will be worth the £1billion he has spent on the project, and added: ‘I think it’s one of the reasons that people want to become astronauts. They want to look back at this beautiful Earth. 

‘Every astronaut I’ve known has come back determined that the rest of their lives will be spent working harder to protect the planet that we live on.’

He was joined in space by chief pilot David Mackay, a Scottish-born test pilot for the Royal Air Force who went on to fly for Sir Richard’s Virgin Atlantic, and chief flight instructor Michael Masucci in the cockpit.

Also onboard with Branson in the cabin was chief astronaut instructor Beth Moses, a former NASA engineer, lead operations engineer Colin Bennett and Sirisha Bandla, a company vice president. 

The six grabbed a lift from mothership pilots C.J. Sturckow, a former NASA astronaut, and Kelly Latimer, before VSS Unity was dropped from VMS Eve. 

A discount travel service it is not, with tickets priced in the hundreds of thousands. 

But demand is apparently strong, with several hundred wealthy would-be citizen astronauts already having booked reservations, priced at around £180,000 per ticket (around $250,000).

Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic and SpaceX are technically competing but each offering a very different service or profile

Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic and SpaceX are technically competing but each offering a very different service or profile

Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic and SpaceX are technically competing but each offering a very different service or profile 

Branson arrived at Spaceport America on a bicycle, ready to climb aboard the mothership, VMS Eve, named for his late mother who was supposed to travel with him, but died before the ship was ready for passengers.

Branson arrived at Spaceport America on a bicycle, ready to climb aboard the mothership, VMS Eve, named for his late mother who was supposed to travel with him, but died before the ship was ready for passengers.

Branson arrived at Spaceport America on a bicycle, ready to climb aboard the mothership, VMS Eve, named for his late mother who was supposed to travel with him, but died before the ship was ready for passengers.

Branson said he felt like a 'kid' in the cabin and couldn't wait to open up flights to more people in the near future

Branson said he felt like a 'kid' in the cabin and couldn't wait to open up flights to more people in the near future

Branson said he felt like a ‘kid’ in the cabin and couldn’t wait to open up flights to more people in the near future

THE CURRENT VIRGIN GALACTIC FLEET 

VMS Eve: The launch platform for the SpaceShipTwo and Spaceship III based Virgin Galactic vehicles. 

VMS stands for Virgin MotherShip and is named after Evette Branson, mother of founder Sir Richard Branson. 

So far only one has been built and it made its first flight in December 2008.

VSS Unity: Based on the SpaceShip Two class of vehicle, it is a rocket powered glider.

A replacement for the destroyed VSS Enterprise, Unity first flew to space in December 2018. 

It has reached an altitude of 50 miles, earning its pilots commercial astronaut wings for the first time in 2018. 

VSS Imagine: The first Spaceship III class of spaceplane, due to begin glide tests summer 2021.

VSS Inspire: The second Spaceship III class of spaceplane currently under construction in California by the Spaceship Company.

Advertisement

The Swiss-based investment bank UBS has estimated the potential value of the space tourism market reaching $3 billion annually by 2030.

Proving rocket travel safe for the public is key, given the inherent dangers of spaceflight.

An earlier prototype of the Virgin Galactic rocket plane crashed during a test flight over California’s Mojave Desert in 2014, killing one pilot and seriously injuring another.  

Virgin Galactic doesn’t expect to start flying customers before next year. Blue Origin has yet to open ticket sales or even announce prices, but late last week boasted via Twitter that it would take clients higher and offer bigger windows.

Unlike Blue Origin and Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which launch capsules atop reusable booster rockets, Virgin Galactic uses a twin-fuselage aircraft to get its rocket ship aloft.

The space plane is released from the mothership about 44,000 feet (13,400 meters) up, then fires its rocket motor to streak straight to space. Maximum altitude is roughly 55 miles (70 kilometers), with three to four minutes of weightlessness provided.

The rocket plane – which requires two pilots – glides to a runway landing at its Spaceport America base.

Virgin Galactic reached space for the first time in 2018, repeating the feat in 2019 and again this past May, each time with a minimal crew. It received permission from the Federal Aviation Administration last month to start launching customers.  

The 70-year-old said he was going into space to ‘test the customer experience’ from start to finish, to ensure that those paying to go up get the best possible experience. 

It is the fourth crewed flight of VSS Unity and only the second to include passengers in the cabin. The first saw Beth Moses go up in February 2019. 








THE BILLIONAIRE SPACE RACE: HOW BRANSON, MUSK AND BEZOS ARE VYING FOR GALACTIC SUPREMACY

Jeff Bezos in front of Blue Origin's space capsule

Jeff Bezos in front of Blue Origin's space capsule

Jeff Bezos in front of Blue Origin’s space capsule

Dubbed the ‘NewSpace’ set, Jeff Bezos, Sir Richard Branson and Elon Musk all say they were inspired by the first moon landing in 1969, when the US beat the Soviet Union in the space race, and there is no doubt how much it would mean to each of them to win the ‘new space race’.

Amazon founder Bezos had looked set to be the first of the three to fly to space, having announced plans to launch aboard his space company Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft on July 20. 

The billionaire mogul will travel with his younger brother Mark, a charity auction winner who’s shelling out $28 million and pioneering female astronaut Wally Funk, 82.

However, Branson has now announced he’s planning to make a suborbital flight nine days before Bezos and his brother. He revealed on Twitter that he plans to be Astronaut 001 on Virgin Galactic’s July 11 test flight.

Although SpaceX and Tesla founder Musk has said he wants to go into space, and even ‘die on Mars’, he has not said when he might blast into orbit. 

SpaceX appears to be leading the way in the broader billionaire space race with numerous launches carrying NASA equipment to the ISS and partnerships to send tourists to space by 2021.  

On February 6 2018, SpaceX sent rocket towards the orbit of Mars, 140 million miles away, with Musk’s own red Tesla roadster attached. 

Elon Musk with his Dragon Crew capsule

Elon Musk with his Dragon Crew capsule

Elon Musk with his Dragon Crew capsule

NASA has already selected two astronauts who will be on-board the first manned Dragon mission. 

SpaceX has also started sending batches of 60 satellites into space to help form its Starlink network. 

Musk hopes this will provide an interconnected web of satellites around Earth which will beam down free internet to people worldwide.  

Branson and Virgin Galactic are taking a different approach to conquering space. It has repeatedly, and successfully, conducted test flights of the Virgin Galactic’s Unity space plane. 

The first took place in December 2018 and the latest on May 22, with the flight accelerating to more than 2,000 miles per hour (Mach 2.7). 

More than 600 affluent customers to date, including celebrities Brad Pitt and Katy Perry, have reserved a $250,000 (£200,000) seat on one of Virgin’s space trips. 

Branson has previously said he expects Elon Musk to win the race to Mars with his private rocket firm SpaceX. 

Richard Branson with the Virgin Galactic craft

Richard Branson with the Virgin Galactic craft

Richard Branson with the Virgin Galactic craft

SpaceShipTwo can carry six passengers and two pilots. Each passenger gets the same seating position with two large windows – one to the side and one overhead.

The space ship is 60ft long with a 90inch diameter cabin allowing maximum room for the astronauts to float in zero gravity.

It climbs to 50,000ft before the rocket engine ignites. SpaceShipTwo separates from its carrier craft, White Knight II, once it has passed the 50-mile mark.

Passengers become ‘astronauts’ when they reach the Karman line, the boundary of Earth’s atmosphere.

The spaceship will then make a suborbital journey with approximately six minutes of weightlessness, with the entire flight lasting approximately 1.5 hours.

Bezos revealed in April 2017 that he finances Blue Origin with around $1 billion (£720 million) of Amazon stock each year.

The system consists of a pressurised crew capsule atop a reusable ‘New Shepard’ booster rocket.   

Bezos is one of the richest men in the world and Blue Origin has successfully flown the New Shepard rocket 15 times.

At its peak, the capsule reached 65 miles (104 kilometres), just above the official threshold for space and landed vertically seven minutes after liftoff.  

Advertisement

link

(Visited 64 times, 1 visits today)

Leave a Reply