Branson steals the march on Bezos in billionaires’ space race

Summary

  • Richard Branson has beaten Jeff Bezos to the punch in billionaires’ space tourism race.
  • With a price tag between US$200,000 to US$250,000 per ticket, an advance sale of about 600 tickets from 60 different countries has already been added to the sale kitty.
  • Virgin Galactic plans to operate 400 commercial flights each year, starting early 2022.

Billionaire and founder of Virgin Group, Richard Branson, flew into space on Sunday onboarding a Virgin Galactic vessel overnight, in a move where he leapt ahead of Amazon Inc’s (NASDAQ:AMZN) ex-CEO Jeff Bezos in the space race.

Flying 53 miles (85 kilometres) above the New Mexico desert, Mr Branson described the journey as the "experience of a lifetime" – and one he hopes will usher in an era of lucrative space tourism.

Five more people accompanied Mr Branson: two pilots – Michael Masucci and Dave Mackay; and three Galactic employees – Beth Moses, Colin Bennett, and Sirisha Bandla.

The flight has enhanced the company’s resolve to fly more into outer space in the build-up to commercial operations – the company plans at least two more test flights into space in the coming months ahead of the planned regular commercial operations in 2022. In addition, as part of its commercial plans, Virgin Galactic plans to operate 400 flights every year as part of its space tourism initiative.

"Congratulations to all our wonderful team at Virgin Galactic for 17 years of hard, hard work to get us this far," he said in a live feed during the VSS Unity spaceship’s journey back to the spaceport.

According to the reports, 600-odd tickets have already been sold to people from 60 different nations, including some Hollywood celebrities for prices ranging between US$200,000 and US$250,000.

Mr Branson’s flight to space means that he has beaten the world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, in the space race.

Bezos, who recently hanged up his boots as Amazon Inc’s CEO after almost 27 years at the helm, is due to fly to space on 20 July on Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket.

Blue Origin posted an infographic on Friday, flaunting the ways in which its offering would be superior. Personally, Mr Bezos wished Mr Branson "best of luck" in an Instagram post on social media platforms.

In the build-up to the flight, Mr Branson also posted a picture of himself standing in a kitchen with flamboyant SpaceX boss and Tesla Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) CEO Elon Musk, who'd come to show his support.

In the 1970s, Mr Branson, a British citizen, founded the Virgin Group, which controls more than 400 companies in various fields. The most famous of them, arguably, was Virgin Airlines – the commercial airliner.

Interestingly, Mr Branson has dyslexia and had a poor academic performance. Famously, on his last day at school, his headmaster, Robert Drayson, had told him he would either end up in prison or become a millionaire. Mr Drayson’s prediction came partially true: Mr Branson didn’t only become a millionaire, he ended up being a billionaire with a net worth of US$7.74 billion, as of date. Moreover, his wealth has appreciated 35% on a year-to-date basis in 2021.

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