Billionaire Sir Richard Branson said in an interview on Friday that his upcoming journey to space on July 11 will be ‘the most extraordinary trip of my lifetime.’
‘I’m just expecting the most extraordinary trip of my lifetime, Branson, the founder of Virgin Galactic, said in an interview with Michael Strahan on Good Morning America.
‘Pioneering it myself and extraordinary trips of a lifetime for other people in the future and for the other five people that will be aboard the spaceship with me, we’re all hitting the ceiling.’
The 70-year-old Branson, who will fly aboard Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity, added that he and the company have spent 17 years trying to get to this point, something that ‘means a lot to him.’
He also noted that he got ‘truly excited’ on Thursday after the final safety check came through and he was asked whether he would like to go into space, along with the five other astronauts.
Billionaire Sir Richard Branson said in an interview on Friday that his upcoming trip to space on July 11 will be ‘the most extraordinary trip of my lifetime’
Richard Branson, Astronaut 001, will be heading to space on a July 11 Virgin Galactic spaceflight. ‘Pioneering it myself and extraordinary trips of a lifetime for other people in the future and for the other five people that will be aboard the spaceship with me, we’re all hitting the ceiling,’ he told Strahan
Shares of Virgin Galactic opened sharply higher Friday on back of the news, gaining nearly 25 percent to trade at $53.25.
By flying onboard the suborbital vehicle, Branson will beat fellow billionaire, Amazon and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos by nine days.
Bezos announced on Thursday that Mary Wallace ‘Wally’ Funk, a trailblazing 82-year-old female aviator, will join him as an ‘honored guest’ aboard Blue Origin’s July 20th flight of its New Shepard Rocket.
Branson, who dubbed himself Astronaut 001 on Twitter late Thursday night, a play on James Bond’s 007 moniker (and perhaps a thinly veiled shot at Amazon’s pending MGM purchase), was originally scheduled to fly on the second of two upcoming test flights but has been bumped up to the next one to steal a march on his billionaire rival and get to space first.
The aviation billionaire – who also started Virgin Atlantic airlines – declined to say when he might go into space as late as Wednesday.
Branson, who dubbed himself Astronaut 001 on Twitter late Thursday night, was originally scheduled to fly on the second of two upcoming test flights but has been bumped up to the next one to steal a march on his billionaire rival and get to space first
The aviation billionaire – who also set up Virgin Atlantic airlines – had declined to say when he might go into space as late as Wednesday
Late Thursday, Branson teased an announcement about others traveling into space
Branson has repeatedly stressed that he was ‘fit and healthy’ and ready to go as soon as his engineers gave him the green light.
Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier said having Sir Richard on board the flight would be ‘invaluable.’
‘Tapping into Sir Richard’s expertise and long history of creating amazing customer experiences will be invaluable as we work to open the wonder of space travel and create awe-inspiring journeys for our customers,’ Colglazier said.
In an interview with DailyMail.com, Will Whitehorn, former President of Virgin Galactic and now Chair Designate at Seraphim, said the Branson news caps off ‘one of the biggest weeks’ in the history of the British space industry.
‘Furthermore, Virgin Orbit and Virgin Galactic provide a gateway to human and satellite launches from Cornwall next year,’ Whitehorn said.
‘This really matters because the Space industry already employs 50,000 people and is responsible for £5bn of annual exports. It needs to be a top priority for the British Government, and the whole industry is working hard to get the Government to publish a national space strategy as soon as possible.’
It will be Virgin Galactic’s fourth test spaceflight and the first mission with a crew of four on board.
Joining Branson will Beth Moses, Astronaut 002 and Virgin Galactic’s chief astronaut instructor, who flew to space on the company’s second spaceflight mission.
Colin Bennett, the company’s lead operations engineer and Astronaut 003, will also join the flight.
Beth Moses, Virgin Galactic’s chief astronaut instructor, who flew to space on the company’s second spaceflight mission will be on board
Colin Bennett, the company’s lead operations engineer, will also join the flight
Sirisha Bandla, Virgin Galactic’s vice president of government affairs and research operations
Sirisha Bandla, Virgin Galactic’s vice president of government affairs and research operations will also be on board as Astronaut 004.
This month’s Unity 22 mission will be the 22nd flight test for rocket plane VSS Unity and the company’s fourth crewed spaceflight. Virgin Galactic’s rocket travels 50 miles into the sky, to the edge of space, before gliding back to Earth and landing on a runway. Blue Earth will see its passengers parachute back to solid ground on capsules.
By flying aboard the VSS Unity, Branson will test the ‘private astronaut experience’ during the next test flight window, something he hopes to help ‘ensure his business delivers a unique customer experience’.
Earlier this month, the US Federal Aviation Administration gave Virgin Galactic the go-ahead to fly paying customers to space after its license was updated.
Virgin Galactic´s Richard Branson is set to beat Amazon and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos being the first to blast off into space on their July 11 flight. Branson is pictured in 2019
Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity, piloted by CJ Sturckow and Dave Mackay, is released from its mothership, VMS Eve, on the way to its first spaceflight after launch from Spaceport America, New Mexico in May
A photo shows the release of VSS Unity from VMS Eve and ignition of rocket motor over Spaceport America, New Mexico
THE BILLIONAIRE SPACE RACE: HOW BRANSON, MUSK AND BEZOS ARE VYING FOR GALACTIC SUPREMACY
Jeff Bezos in front of Blue Origin’s space capsule
Dubbed the ‘NewSpace’ set, Jeff Bezos, Sir Richard Branson and Elon Musk all say they were inspired by the first moon landing in 1969, when the US beat the Soviet Union in the space race, and there is no doubt how much it would mean to each of them to win the ‘new space race’.
Amazon founder Bezos had looked set to be the first of the three to fly to space, having announced plans to launch aboard his space company Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft on July 20.
The billionaire mogul will travel with his younger brother Mark, a charity auction winner who’s shelling out $28 million and pioneering female astronaut Wally Funk, 82.
However, Branson has now announced he’s planning to make a suborbital flight nine days before Bezos and his brother. He revealed on Twitter that he plans to be Astronaut 001 on Virgin Galactic’s July 11 test flight.
Although SpaceX and Tesla founder Musk has said he wants to go into space, and even ‘die on Mars’, he has not said when he might blast into orbit.
SpaceX appears to be leading the way in the broader billionaire space race with numerous launches carrying NASA equipment to the ISS and partnerships to send tourists to space by 2021.
On February 6 2018, SpaceX sent rocket towards the orbit of Mars, 140 million miles away, with Musk’s own red Tesla roadster attached.
Elon Musk with his Dragon Crew capsule
NASA has already selected two astronauts who will be on-board the first manned Dragon mission.
SpaceX has also started sending batches of 60 satellites into space to help form its Starlink network.
Musk hopes this will provide an interconnected web of satellites around Earth which will beam down free internet to people worldwide.
Branson and Virgin Galactic are taking a different approach to conquering space. It has repeatedly, and successfully, conducted test flights of the Virgin Galactic’s Unity space plane.
The first took place in December 2018 and the latest on May 22, with the flight accelerating to more than 2,000 miles per hour (Mach 2.7).
More than 600 affluent customers to date, including celebrities Brad Pitt and Katy Perry, have reserved a $250,000 (£200,000) seat on one of Virgin’s space trips.
Branson has previously said he expects Elon Musk to win the race to Mars with his private rocket firm SpaceX.
Richard Branson with the Virgin Galactic craft
SpaceShipTwo can carry six passengers and two pilots. Each passenger gets the same seating position with two large windows – one to the side and one overhead.
The space ship is 60ft long with a 90inch diameter cabin allowing maximum room for the astronauts to float in zero gravity.
It climbs to 50,000ft before the rocket engine ignites. SpaceShipTwo separates from its carrier craft, White Knight II, once it has passed the 50-mile mark.
Passengers become ‘astronauts’ when they reach the Karman line, the boundary of Earth’s atmosphere.
The spaceship will then make a suborbital journey with approximately six minutes of weightlessness, with the entire flight lasting approximately 1.5 hours.
Bezos revealed in April 2017 that he finances Blue Origin with around $1 billion (£720 million) of Amazon stock each year.
The system consists of a pressurised crew capsule atop a reusable ‘New Shepard’ booster rocket.
Bezos is one of the richest men in the world and Blue Origin has successfully flown the New Shepard rocket 15 times.
At its peak, the capsule reached 65 miles (104 kilometres), just above the official threshold for space and landed vertically seven minutes after liftoff.
Dave Mackay will be piloting the Virgin Galactic spacecraft
Virgin passengers will be able to see the curvature of the Earth against the blackness of space. The entire flight lasts around 10 minutes, including three minutes of weightlessness.
Guests will pay around $250,000-a-ticket, with more than 600 so far reserving a seat. A date for paid passenger flights has yet to be announced, although the company has said it will start the service following three additional successful test flights, set to happen later this year.
The main objectives Virgin’s next test flight, taking off from Virgin Galactic’s spaceport in New Mexico, will be ‘evaluating… seat comfort, the weightless experience and the views of Earth’ in the space cabin.
The company said it also wants to demonstrate the conditions for conducting human-tended research experiments and confirm the training program at Spaceport America supports the spaceflight experience.
Virgin Galactic plans three more test flights to the edge of space this summer and early fall, before launching with customers
Last week, Virgin Galactic got the Federal Aviation Administration’s OK to start launching customers
Virgin Galactic made its third flight to space in May, with two pilots in the cockpit of the winged spaceship.
Conversely, Blue Origin has planned July 20 for its first manned launch, coinciding with the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon.
Blue Origin’s flight from West Texas will include Bezos, his brother, a charity auction winner who’s shelling out $28 million and the aforementioned Funk.
Funk has also booked herself a seat on an upcoming Virgin Galactic flight too, so she may fly into space twice after having repeatedly been rejected over the years.
At 82, she will beat former NASA astronaut John Glenn’s record for being the oldest person in space. He was 77 when he last flew aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1998.
Glenn infamously dismissed the idea of sending women into space shortly after becoming the first American to orbit the Earth in 1962.
Unlike Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin are looking to send space tourists on brief up-and-down hops – not into orbit around the world.
Amazon’s Jeff Bezos is targeting July 20 for his rocket company’s first launch with people
Participants enjoy the Blue Origin Space Simulator in June 2019. An unnamed bidder paid $28 million at auction on June 12, 2021, for a seat on board the first crewed spaceflight of Jeff Bezos’ company Blue Origin on July 20
Bezos plans to blast into space from West Texas on July 20, the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing