Virgin Galactic’s Sir Richard Branson announced on Thursday he will launch a rocket into space on July 11, beating fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos by nine days.
Branson’s company said that its founder will be among the six people on board. All other passengers are company employees. It will be only the fourth trip into space for Virgin Galactic.
The winged rocket ship – the first carrying a full crew – will launch from New Mexico after the US Federal Aviation Administration gave Virgin permission to take paying customers into space in late June, after a successful test flight in May.
Branson said he was “honored” to be able to help “ensure his business delivers a unique customer experience”.
“I truly believe that space belongs to all of us,” he said.
“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,” Sir Richard wrote on Twitter.
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
Jeff Bezos to follow Branson to space on July 20
The news came just hours after Bezos’ Blue Origin said Bezos would be accompanied into space on July 20 by Wally Funk, a female aerospace pioneer.
Virgin Galactic launches its rocket ship from an aircraft, reaching an altitude of roughly 88km (55 miles). Blue Origin launches its New Shepard rocket from the ground, with its capsule soaring to about 106 km (66 miles). Both those heights are considered the edge of space.
Bezos plans to blast into space from West Texas on the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
Blue Origin announced earlier in June that Bezos would fly alongside his brother, Mark Bezos. Later it said they would be joined by Wally Funk — an 82-year-old woman who underwent similar training to NASA’s Mercury program, but like all American women at the time, was denied the opportunity to go to space — and the winner of an auction who forked over $28 million for the opportunity.
“Ever since I was five years old, I’ve dreamed of traveling to space. On July 20th, I will take that journey with my brother. The greatest adventure, with my best friend,” Bezos wrote on Instagram recently.
He added: “To see the earth from space — it changes you.”
Petitions for Jeff Bezos to stay away from Earth
His astonishing wealth has created a lot of admirers — but there also many who dislike him. As soon as he announced his intention to fly into space, at least two petitions were launched to try and prevent the billionaire’s re-entry to Earth that have both garnered thousands of followers.
More than 37,000 people have signed one Change.org petition titled: “Do not allow Jeff Bezos to return to Earth.”
“Billionaire’s (sic) should not exist…on earth, or in space, but should they decide the latter they should stay there,” the petition’s description said.
Another petition, called “Petition To Not Allow Jeff Bezos Re-Entry To Earth,” has accumulated more than 19,000 signatures and is quickly gaining traction.
Jose Ortiz, who set up the petition, said in the description that Bezos is “an evil overlord hellbent on global domination.”
“The fate of humanity is in your hands,” Ortiz also wrote.