The space race between the founder of Virgin Galactic and the founder of Amazon is heating up, weeks before one of the two billionaires will be the first to go to space.
Confirming rumors about his space flight plans, Sir Richard Branson announced he will be onboard the next flight of Virgin Galactic on SpaceShipTwo Unity.
The flight is scheduled to blast off on July 11, nine days before Jeff Bezo’s flight on Blue Origin, ABC News reported.
“I know that it’s been painted as a race, honestly I don’t think either of us see it that way,” Branson said on “Good Morning America” on Friday. “We’re both doing something pretty different — the people that go up with us are going up in a spaceship — they launch from a beautiful space port in New Mexico. Jeff has a different approach. So we’re not really in direct competition. I have enormous respect for what he’s doing and I know he has enormous respect for what our wonderful team are doing as well.”
He said he will be on the flight to “evaluate the private astronaut experience and will undergo the same training, preparation and flight as Virgin Galactic’s future astronauts,” according to ABC News.
The flight will be the 22nd mission for the VSS Unity and the first to carry a full crew consisting of two pilots and four mission specialists, according to a news release from New Mexico’s Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.
The state is looking at space tourism as a new market, estimating that it could be worth $8 billion by 2030, the governor’s office said.
“An entirely new era for tourism begins here in New Mexico,” Tourism Secretary Jen Paul Schroer said in the news release. “We’re excited to share New Mexico’s rich history of space and science, along with our vast open spaces and dark skies with the world.”
“This is a huge moment for Spaceport America and for New Mexico. By investing in the aerospace industry, New Mexico continues to demonstrate its commitment to diversifying its economy,” Economic Development Secretary Alicia Keyes said.