Richard Branson aims to get to space before billionaire Jeff Bezos.
Virgin galactic, the Branson company, announced Thursday that its next test flight will be July 11 and that its founder will be one of six people on board. The spacecraft will take off from New Mexico, and will be the first to transport a teamfull of company employees.
The news was released hours after Blue Origin, Bezos’s company, indicated that the founder of Amazon would be escorted into space. July 20 by an aerospace pioneer that waited 60 years to take off.
Bezos selected July 20 as the launch date from West Texas, the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Just a month ago he decided he would go on the flight, the last leg in a space race between the two tycoons.
The Amazon founder will go on the first manned launch of Blue Origin, accompanied by his brother, by the winner of a charity auction that paid 28 million dollars, and by Wall Funk, one of the last survivors of the Mercury 13 that was selected as “Honor guest”.
All 13 pilots passed the same tests as the Mercury 7 astronauts in the early 1960s, but they were forbidden to be part of the body and space flight for being women.
The team that will travel into space: Dave Mackay, Colin Bennett, Beth Moses, Richard Branson, Sirisha Bandla, and Michael Masucci. Photo EFE
Until Wednesday, Branson had refused to say when you would go to space due to the restrictions imposed by your company. But he stressed that he was “fit and healthy” to fly as soon as his engineers cleared it.
“I’ve always been a dreamer. My mom taught me to never give up and reach for the stars. July 11 is the time to make that dream a reality aboard the next VirginGalactic, ” he tweeted.
Virgin Galactic launches its space rocket from an aircraft, reaching an altitude of approximately 88 kilometers (55 miles).
Blue Origin launches its New Shepard rocket from the ground, and its capsule reaches about 106 kilometers (66 miles) high. Both altitudes are considered the edge of space. By comparison, Elon Musk’s SpaceX launches its “both manned and cargo” capsules into Earth orbit.
The three private space companies plan to take clients into space. SpaceX will be the first to do so with a private flight in September.
Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin flights last approximately 10 minutes, with about three minutes of weightlessness. But the returns are quite different: Virgin Galactic’s rocket plane glide to an airstrip, like the old NASA space shuttles did, with a couple of pilots at the helm.
Automated Blue Origin capsules parachute into the desert, similar to the landing of NASA’s Mercury, Gemini and Apollo capsules. Its spaceports are only 320 kilometers away from each other.
Bezos vs. Branson
The space race, in which Elon Musk also enters. AFP photo
The battle between the two competitors is accompanied of a media war.
Jeff Bezos hit hard this Thursday by presenting his “honor” passenger for the July 20 flight.
This is the pioneer aviator Wally Funk, 82, who will accompany the billionaire in the first manned space flight of the Blue Origin company.
The trip comes 60 years late for Funk, who was one of the “Mercury 13”, the first women trained by the US space agency. NASA to fly into space between 1960 and 1961, but excluded for gender reasons.
In a video posted to Bezos’ Instagram account on the occasion of the announcement, Funk noted that “I said I wanted to be an astronaut. But no one wanted to take me. I didn’t think I’d ever go there.”
“No one has waited that long,” Bezos wrote. “Welcome to the crew, Wally.”
Funk, who was also the first female inspector for the United States aviation agency, the FAA, become the oldest person to go into space -so far that record is held by the 77-year-old American astronaut John Glenn- when he travels aboard the New Shepard spacecraft with Bezos and his brother Mark.
Also going is the unidentified winner of an auction, who paid $ 28 million for the seat.
The launch is scheduled on the date of 52nd anniversary of the Apollo moon landing in 1969 by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.
Ironically, Wally Funk also bought a ticket years ago to fly into space with Virgin Galactic.