Richard Branson will travel into space on July 11
Virgin Galactic's Richard Branson is aiming to beat fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos into space by nine days. Branson's company announced on Thursday evening that its next test flight will be July 11 and that its founder will be among the six people on board. The winged rocket ship will soar from New Mexico the first carrying a full crew of company employees.
Bezos will be accompanied by a female aerospace pioneer
It will be only the fourth trip to space for Virgin Galactic. The news came just hours after Bezos's Blue Origin said Bezos would be accompanied into space on July 20 by a female aerospace pioneer who's waited 60 years to rocket away. Bezos chose July 20 as his West Texas launch date, the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
Bezos's brother and Wally Funk will also be on board
Amazon's founder will be on Blue Origin's debut launch with people on board, accompanied by his brother, the winner of a 28 million charity auction, and Wally Funk, one of the last surviving members of the Mercury 13 who was chosen as his honored guest.
Funk will become the oldest person to launch into space
Funk, at age 82, will become the oldest person to launch into space when Blue Origin takes its turn. She'll beat the late John Glenn, who set a record at age 77 when flying aboard space shuttle Discovery in 1998. "I'll love every second of it. Whoooo! Ha-ha. I can hardly wait," Funk said in an Instagram video posted by Bezos.
It's time to turn the dream into a reality: Branson
As late as Wednesday, Branson declined to say when he would ride into space because of restrictions placed on him by his publicly traded company. But he stressed he was fit and healthy to fly as soon as his engineers give him the go. "On July 11, it's time to turn that dream into a reality aboard the next @VirginGalactic," he said via Twitter.
Here is Branson's tweet
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
SpaceX will be first to take tourists into space
All three private space companies plan to take paying customers into space, with SpaceX being first with a private flight in September. Flights by Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin last about 10 minutes, with around three minutes of weightlessness. But the returns are quite different.
Virgin Galactic's tickets sold for a whopping $250,000
Blue Origin has yet to announce ticket prices or when the public might strap into the spacious six-seat capsule. Its New Shepard rocket is named after Alan Shepard, the first American in space. Virgin Galactic has more than 600 reservations in the pipeline. These original tickets went for $250,000. More will be accepted after Branson's flight. Virgin Galactic is planning three more test flights.
Here's how the three companies compare in terms of launch
Virgin Galactic launches its rocket ship from an aircraft, reaching an altitude of roughly 55 miles (88 kilometers). Blue Origin launches its New Shepard rocket from the ground, with its capsule soaring to about 66 miles (106 kilometers). Both those heights are considered the edge of space. By comparison, Elon Musk's SpaceX launches its capsules, both crew and cargo into orbit around Earth.