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Elon Musk vs Jeff Bezos vs Richard Branson: The billionaires battle for space tourism

Musk vs Bezos vs Branson

We have learned a lot about the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union in the mid 20th century. It’s 21 century, and we are now witnessing something unusual – the space race between billionaires’. Thanks to the massive technological development!

It all started when Jeff Bezos, the Amazon founder, announced that he’d be joining Blue Origin’s first crewed flight to space on July 20. 

He took Instagram to announce the journey, “Ever since I was five years old, I’ve dreamed of travelling to space,” Bezos wrote on Instagram. “On July 20th, I will take that journey with my brother. The greatest adventure, with my best friend.”

While everyone was anticipating Jeff Bezos’ journey, a different billionaire came out of nowhere (not literally), heading to space on July 11th, nine days before. Yes, that’s the race we are talking about, and it is none other than the UK businessman Richard Branson. 

Richard Branson, the founder of British multinational venture capital Virgin Groups, had plans for a space flight later this year after another successful test flight of VSS Unity SpaceShipTwo. Still, Virgin Galactic may have moved up its launch date in response to Blue Origin’s flight.

Last month, he teased his flight on Twitter saying “Jeff started building [Blue Origin] in 2000, we started building [Virgin Galactic] in 2004 & now both are opening up access to Space – how extraordinary! Watch this space…”

So, who owns what? What are they going to do in space? Who is winning the space tourism race? Let us take a look! 

Richard Branson 

Richard Branson

Company: Virgin Galactic

Launch date: July 11

Space flight: VSS Unity

Crew: Beth Moses, Colin Bennett, Sirisha Bandla, Sir Richard Branson

Pilot: Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci will fly VSS Unity; CJ Sturckow and Kelly Latimer will fly mothership VMS Eve

Last week, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic announced the first fully crewed spaceflight – Unity 22 Mission. It is the company’s twenty-second flight test for VSS Unity and fourth crewed spaceflight. 

Notably, it will also be the first to carry a full crew of two pilots and four mission specialists in the cabin, including the Company’s founder, Sir Richard Branson. The Unity 22 Mission is all about focusing on cabin and customer experience objectives set by the company. 

VSS Unity is a reusable suborbital rocket-powered spaceplane. During the journey, VSS Unity will be carried by VMS Eve up to 50,000 feet. After that, the VSS Unity drops, and its rocket motor ignites, pushing the craft up to space. 

Virgin Galactic, a British-American spaceflight company, has about 600 reservations for tickets on future flights, sold at prices between $200,000 and $250,000 each. Celebrities, including Angelina Jolie, Justin Beiber, Leonardo DiCaprio, have already booked the trip. 

In terms of itinerary, the VSS Unity will fly up to an altitude of about 80km, allowing passengers to feel the weightlessness for about six minutes and a glimpse of the earth’s curvature. 

It’s worth mentioning that the Karman line, an approximate boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and outer space, is 20KM higher than that. 

Jeff Bezos

Jeff Bezos

Company: Blue Origin

Launch date: July 20

Space flight: New Shepard Rocket

Crew: Jeff Bezos, Mark Bezos, Wally Funk, and the Auction winner

Pilot: Autonomous

Last month, Blue Origin announced its first human flight with a crew consisting of Jeff Bezos, his brother Mark Bezos, Wally Funk, and the auction winner on New Shepard Rocket.

As per the company, nearly 7,600 people registered to bid from 159 countries. Blue Origin concluded the bid for $28M. However, the name of the auction winner is not disclosed yet. 

The winning bid amount will be donated to Blue Origin’s foundation, Club for the Future, whose mission is to inspire future generations to pursue careers in STEM and to help invent the future of life in space.

New Shepard, Blue Origin’s rocket was named after astronaut – Alan Shepard, the first American to go to space. The sub-orbital rocket offers flight to space over 100km above the earth (20km more than Virgin Galactic’s flight) and accommodation for payload. In general, the rocket is designed to take astronauts and research payloads past the Karman line. 

The reusable New Shepard can accommodate six passengers, with each getting their own window seat and it is entirely autonomous. 

After separating from the booster, the capsule free falls in space. The booster on the other hand performs autonomously controlled vertical landing back to Earth. The capsule, on the other hand, lands back with the help of parachutes.

The duration of this trip is just 10 minutes, where passengers are allowed to unbuckle their seat belts and float around and enjoy the curvature of the earth before returning to earth. 

Elon Musk

Elon Musk

Company: SpaceX

Launch date: NA

Space flight: Super Heavy and Starship

Crew: NA 

Pilot: NA

Elon Musk, who wants to die on Mars plans to send civilians to low-earth orbit this year. Unlike Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, SpaceX’s space journey will last up to four days involving passengers orbiting the planet before the splashdown. Jared Isaacman, the founder of Shift4 Payments, has purchased a rocket ride to orbit from SpaceX. Out of the four, two seats are considered a donation. 

Accompanying him on the trip is Sian Proctor, 51, a community college professor from Tempe, Ariz., Christopher Sembroski, 41, of Everett, Wash., and Hayley Arceneaux, a former patient of St. Jude, who now works as a physician assistant there, reports NYTimes. 

It’s worth mentioning that Musk’s SpaceX has already taken a crew to the International Space Station. Elon Musk also said that he would fly Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa around the moon with its upcoming Starship rocket in 2023.

However, Elon Musk’s primary goal is to colonise Mars and create a self-sustaining city by 2050. 

Right from the dawn of civilisation, we humans have always been interested in the universe and even devised plans to reach Mars, the Moon, and stars. Finally, the touristy trip to space is happening as anticipated. But is it worth all the extravaganza?  

Do let us know in the comment section below!