Richard Branson and his Virgin Galactic company are attempting to rain on rival Jeff Bezos' space parade. Branson had announced that he will take off for the outer atmosphere on July, 11. This will mean that he will beat Bezos — who takes off on July 20 — by just nine days. Speaking to CNN, Branson clarified that he is not in completion with Bezos, and even encouraged the soon-to-be-former Amazon boss to attend his lift-off.
"I don't know for sure exactly when Jeff Bezos is going, he may decide to go before us, but I honestly don't see this as a space race," Branson told CNN Business host Rachel Crane. "I would love for Jeff to come and see our flight off whenever it takes place. I would love to go and watch him go in his flight, and I think both of us will wish each other well."
Join us July 11th for our first fully crewed rocket powered test flight, and the beginning of a new space age.— Virgin Galactic (@virgingalactic) July 1, 2021
The countdown begins. #Unity22
https://t.co/5UalYT7Hjb. @RichardBranson pic.twitter.com/ZL9xbCeWQX
He went on to say that he is also not risking himself or his team to get to space before Bezos, due to his company's frequency of space travel. "You've got to remember that Virgin Galactic has people on every spaceflight...The fact that I'm willing to fly with those people shows confidence," Branson said. "I think the least the founder of the company can do is go up there and fly with his people."
It was early June that Bezos announced his plans to travel into space via a Blue Origin commercial flight. He made the reveal in an Instagram post, sharing that a close family member would be accompanying him. "Ever since I was five years old, I've dreamed of traveling to space. On July 20th, I will take that journey with my brother," he wrote. "The greatest adventure, with my best friend."
More recently, Bezos revealed that aerospace pioneer Wally Funk would also be part of the epic flight. "No one has waited longer," Bezos began in a statement on Instagram. "In 1961, Wally Funk was at the top of her class as part of the 'Mercury 13' Woman in Space Program. Despite completing their training, the program was cancelled, and none of the thirteen flew. It's time. Welcome to the crew, Wally. We're excited to have you fly with us on July 20th as our honored guest."