Richard Branson Announces Space Trip That Will Launch Before Jeff Bezos Takes Off
Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson announced on Thursday evening that his company’s next flight will be on July 11, just nine days before Jeff Bezos‘ trip to space. Branson, along with several employees and pilots, will be on board for what will be the shuttle’s fourth test ride. He was initially supposed to be on the shuttle’s second demo coming up, but in an apparent move to outdo Bezos’ Blue Origin, he moved the timeline up.
Up until Wednesday, Branson had refused to make any public comment on when he would be going to space. He had to follow certain restrictions in place for his publically traded company, but Branson did emphasize that he was “fit and healthy” to fly as soon as it was safe.
After the trip’s announcement, he posted on Twitter, saying, “I’ve always been a dreamer. My mum taught me to never give up and to reach for the stars. On July 11, it’s time to turn that dream into a reality aboard the next @VirginGalactic.”
I’ve always been a dreamer. My mum taught me to never give up and to reach for the stars. On July 11, it’s time to turn that dream into a reality aboard the next @VirginGalactic spaceflight https://t.co/x0ksfnuEQ3 #Unity22 pic.twitter.com/GWskcMSXyA
— Richard Branson (@richardbranson) July 1, 2021
The news of Virgin Galactic’s takeoff comes after Bezos revealed that Wally Funk would accompany him, his brother and the winner of a $28 million auction as the “honored guest” on Blue Origin’s debut launch. Funk is one of the last surviving members of the Mercury 13, a group of 13 female pilots who possessed the same qualifications and passed the same tests as NASA’s original Mercury 7 astronauts in the early 1960s, but were barred from spaceflight because of their gender.
Both Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic’s flights will last about ten minutes with three minutes of weightlessness, give or take. That’s about where the similarities in the two companys’ space tours end. Virgin Galactic’s manually guided trips will glide to a landing like a plane, similar to old NASA space shuttles. Meanwhile, Blue Origin’s automated spacecraft will parachute to the desert floor, reminiscent of the ocean splashdowns of NASA’s Mercury, Gemini and Apollo capsules.
The two competitors are located less than 200 miles apart.
However, when Bezos takes off on July 20, chosen for the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, one of his passengers will break a new record, the oldest person in space. At 82-years-old, Funk will beat the late John Glenn, who was 77-years-old when he passed through the atmospheric barrier aboard the Discovery in 1998.
Glenn had dismissed the idea of women in space when he returned from his first space mission, becoming the first American to orbit the earth in 1962.
In an Instagram video Bezos posted, Funk revealed her excitement. “I’ll love every second of it,” she said. “Whoooo! Ha-ha. I can hardly wait. Nothing has ever gotten in my way. They said, ‘Well, you’re a girl, you can’t do that.’ I said, ‘Guess what, doesn’t matter what you are. You can still do it if you want to do it and I like to do things that nobody has ever done.”