Virgin Galactic’s founder Richard Branson announced that he would be traveling to space together with five other crew members onboard Virgin Galactic test flight from New Mexico on July 11, 2021. 

This will be the fourth Virgin’s (VAH) manned spaceflight, according to the company. Two additional test flights are planned before the Virgin Galactic expects to commence commercial service in 2022. The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) gave Virgin (VAH) green light to take paying customers into space in late June 2021.

“I truly believe that space belongs to all of us,” Branson was quoted in the company’s statement. “After more than 16 years of research, engineering, and testing, Virgin Galactic stands at the vanguard of a new commercial space industry, which is set to open space to humankind and change the world for good. As part of a remarkable crew of mission specialists, I’m honoured to help validate the journey our future astronauts will undertake and ensure we deliver the unique customer experience people expect from Virgin (VAH).” 

Billionaires’ fight: Branson to launch space trip ahead of Bezos

This means, Branson will travel beyond earth’s atmosphere ahead of fellow aspiring astronaut Jeff Bezos.

Blue Origin, whose founder is Bezos, aims to fly its first astronaut crew to space on July 20, 2021, ‒ nine days later than Branson’s Virgin Galactic. Wally Funk, Bezos brother Mark, and auction winner whose identity is yet to be disclosed will join Amazon billionaire in the first Blue Origin’s crewed flight to space.

The flight will take place on Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft. The spacecraft was designed as a commercial system for suborbital space tourism and is capable of carrying six passengers onboard more than 100 kilometers above Earth.

Once the first space tourism trip is completed, Blue Origin will reportedly conduct a few further flights to space during 2021.

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Space tourism has become a fast-emerging market with a handful of competitors trying to make journeys to space an accessible reality.