Sir Richard Branson has bagged some major bragging rights at the billionaires’ club.
The tax exile has pipped Jeff Bezos to the title of first billionaire in space. You can watch the monumental ego trip in the video atop this article.
Branson’s 1.5-hour journey reached an apex of around 89kms — just above NASA’s benchmark for granting astronaut wings.
The Virgin Galactic founder then spent a few minutes pointlessly floating around at zero gravity. For those who’d hoped he’d stay in space, I regret to inform you that this was a return flight.
“Welcome to the dawn of a new space age,” Branson tweeted modestly after the trip, alongside a picture of (who else?) himself.
— Richard Branson (@richardbranson) July 11, 2021
Branson was one of six people in the Virgin Galactic crew. The tycoon had the crucial role of “evaluating the customer spaceflight experience.”
He now hopes to “open space to everybody.” But don’t expect to reach the cosmos any time soon: tickets for a trip with Virgin Galactic cost up to $250,000.
Branson nonetheless proved that anything is possible (if you’re unspeakably rich). You could even accomplish feats that space agencies achieved 60 years ago.
While you’re thanking Branson for his selfless labor, remember to spare a thought for Jeff Bezos. The Amazon founder was set to beat Branson in the billionaires’ space race, until the Virgin kingpin moved his schedule forward to take the ostentatious crown. Poor Jeff’s inaugural flight is penciled in for July 20.
To his credit, Bezos magnanimously congratulated his space rival on the trip. But his rocket company had a painful dig at Branson’s plans.
Blue Origin tweeted that anyone who flies on Virgin Galactic’s Unity will have “an asterisk next to their name” because they wouldn’t reach the “internationally recognized” 100km altitude where space begins. Ouch.
From the beginning, New Shepard was designed to fly above the Kármán line so none of our astronauts have an asterisk next to their name. For 96% of the world’s population, space begins 100 km up at the internationally recognized Kármán line. pic.twitter.com/QRoufBIrUJ
— Blue Origin (@blueorigin) July 9, 2021
The Virgin vehicle is, however, a better-looking beast to my eyes. Blue Origin’s spaceplane, by contrast, is unimaginatively phallic. But that’s a fitting shape for a penis-measuring contest.