The three billionaires with high stakes in space are Richard Branson, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. Bezos has been in the news from the past few weeks with Blue Origin’s series of announcements about his, his brother and other members who would take the first private human flight to space on July 20.
Amid all the show and drama, with announcements of fellow passengers including a secret one who won an auction and Wally Funk an 82-year-old woman who underwent training similar to NASA’s Mercury program but never got the opportunity to fly, Richard Branson quietly but surely stepped into that space on Thursday. He announced that he and his crew would be taking their first flight to space on July11, nine days before Bezos.
On Thursday, Virgin Galactic announced that it will make an attempt to launch its next test flight on July 11. The crew on board will include
- Richard Branson — Virgin Galactic Founder
- Dave Mackay — Virgin Galactic Pilot
- Michael Masucci — Virgin Galactic Pilot
- Beth Moses — Chief Astronaut Instructor
- Colin Bennett — Lead Operations Engineer
- Sirisha Bandla — Government Affairs VP
Earlier on June 25, Virgin Galactic had announced that it had received a license from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly passengers on its future space flights. The scheduled July 11 flight will be its fourth test flight. This will be its first mission with a four-member crew on board. The pilots will fly the VSS Unity Spacecraft.
In past space missions, Virgin Galactic’s spacecraft launch from a carrier aircraft and then accelerate to a speed that is greater than three times the speed of sound. The spacecraft then remains in microgravity at an altitude above 80 kilometers which is recognized as the official boundary of space by the U.S. It slowly flips around and glides back to earth and lands on a runaway.
Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin’s billionaire founders Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos have been space rivals from years though Branson denies a rivalry to be the first among them to travel to space. He was the pioneer as he founded his company in 2004. The third billionaire in the mix Elon Musk has shown no interest as yet to compete in a flight to space though he has said that he would like to die on Mars but “not on impact.”
Virgin Galactic said that it will postpone the flight if there are adverse weather conditions or technical issues. It also said that it would livestream the flight on Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook. Virgin Galactic shares soared by 20 during after-hours trading on Thursday.
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