Branson, Bezos flights usher in era of space tourism
Richard Branson is going to space Sunday. If all goes according to plan, Virgin Galactic’s Unity 22 mission will put the mogul outside the earth’s atmosphere a matter of days before rival Jeff Bezos makes it with his company Blue Origin. And they’ll both beat SpaceX’s Elon Musk. The era of billionaires in space is upon us. But if you ask Branson, it’s not a race, even though he’s specifically going into suborbit the same month as Bezos.
“It’s honestly not a race,” Branson told Reuters this week. “If it’s a race, it’s a race to produce wonderful spaceships that can make many more people be able to access space. And I think that’s both of our aims.”
Both men aim to open space tourism. Virgin Galactic, which has more than 600 bookings at $250,000 per person, plans a couple more test flights this year before welcoming paying customers to space in 2022. Branson hopes to eventually cut ticket prices to $40,000.
Bezos’ July 20 flight will be something of a retirement present to himself, coming just two weeks after he stepped down as Amazon CEO, though he will still be very much involved in operations.
“Ever since I was five years old, I’ve dreamed of traveling to space,” Bezos, 57, said in an Instagram post last month. “On July 20th, I will take that journey with my brother. The greatest adventure, with my best friend.”
Blue Origin has not announced prices for space tourism flights, but they are certainly in the works. The company will also transport cargo to space, as will SpaceX. They have also been rivals in a bid to help NASA put humans back on the moon by 2024.
Musk, surprisingly, hasn’t made much mention of an upcoming space flight for himself, and beyond space tourism, SpaceX has its sights set on colonizing Mars. SpaceX has sold some spots on flights to the International Space Station through intermediaries.
Although it’s been in the works for years, it’s still truly remarkable to see space tourism become a real thing.