Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos are two of the wealthiest people on the planet. They also share a similar affinity for space travel and tourism. Both men have done a great deal with their private aerospace companies, Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin respectively. However, like everything else, it seems that competition might have come into play here again.
When it comes to private aerospace, it is hard to find a company with the prowess of SpaceX - the company founded by fellow billionaire Elon Musk. SpaceX has revolutionized the industry, pioneering the use of reusable rockets and making aerospace much more efficient. However, Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin have been able to coat off economies of scale and work faster on their objectives as well.
Blue Origin Sets the Industry on Fire
2021 always promised to be an important one for the aerospace industry. The space is much more vibrant than ever, and companies are looking to optimize their performance across the board by showing how quickly they can move. Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin might not necessarily be industry leaders, but they definitely understand how to make quick work happen.
For a little over a month now, Blue Origin has touted an upcoming space trip that will feature Bezos, his brother Mark, and four other passengers. In an Instagram post, Bezos explained how he had always dreamed of traveling to space. The billionaire added that he will make the trip together with his brother on July 20.
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The Bezos brothers would be blasting off on Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft. Bezos said in his post that this is a big deal for him and that he had always wanted to travel to space all his life. Blue Origin also auctioned a seat on the flight for $28 million, although it is still unclear who will join the group.
New details have come to light about the trip. It will last 11 minutes, and it will take the group as far as 62 miles above the Earth’s surface. It will mark a major milestone; for one, it means that Blue Origin plans to launch its first space tourism adventure. Second, Bezos aims to be the first billionaire to space.
Branson Says, “Not So Fast”
While the world was still reeling from the milestone that Blue Origin plans to embark on, Virgin Galactic came on with a bombshell announcement. In a statement published on Twitter earlier this month, Branson confirmed that he will be traveling to space aboard Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo Unity on July 11.
The mission, which has been dubbed Unity 22, will be the 22nd test flight for VSS Unity. It will also be the company’s fourth crewed flight and Branson’s first trip to space. Just like that, Branson will be the first billionaire to space.
Virgin Galactic has claimed that it would perform three more test flights before paid customers can enjoy their rides to space. Unity 22 will be the first of those flights.
Virgin Galactic has noted that Branson’s flight will majorly be to help the company focus on customer experience and cabin objectives. However, the timing seems pretty fortuitous, allowing the company to stir the pot in the battle of the billionaires once more. It just seems like they deliberately wanted to one-up Bezos and Blue Origin.
Branson Calms the Tensions
To be fair, Branson has done his bit to deny that this announcement was premeditated. In an interview with NBC, the billionaire explained that there is no competition between Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin.
“I know nobody will believe me when I say it, but honestly, there's isn't any competition,” Branson said, adding that the world will benefit from having Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin as leaders of the private aerospace industry.
More details have also crept up about Virgin Galactic’s trip. For instance, Branson will be going up to space with three of the company’s employees - Beth Moses, Virgin Galactic’s Chief Astronaut Instructor; Sirisha Bandla, the company’s Vice President of Government Affairs and Research Operations; and Colin Bennett, the company’s Lead Operations Engineer.
For his part, Bezos hasn’t made any comments about the trip. The world’s richest man might be content to simply go to space, even though he will be the second billionaire to do so. If Blue Origin makes a surprise and announces that it would move Bezos’ flight forward, then we know that the competition is truly on.