Cape Canaveral – Two billionaires will play it all together as they head out to explore space aboard their rockets this month.
Their flashes are meant to give confidence to customers who are willing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to imitate them.
The highly profitable search for space tourists will take place in the far reaches of outer space, at an altitude of one hundred kilometers above sea level, and will feature Richard Branson of Virgin Galactic and the richest man on the planet, Jeff Bezos of Blue Origin.
Mr. Branson is scheduled to take off from New Mexico on Sunday with two pilots and three employees aboard a rocket plane, which will first be flown in a twin-body aircraft.
Bezos will travel to West Texas nine days later in a fully automated capsule. He will be joined by three guests: his brother, an 82-year-old aviation pioneer who has waited 60 years for the opportunity to visit space, and the auction winner who paid $28 million for his seat.
Mr. Branson’s journey will last longer, but Mr. Bezos will rise to an even higher level.
Mr. Branson’s has more windows, but Mr. Bezos’s is bigger.
The plane Mr. Branson flew had already been to space three times. Mr. Bezos’ capsule made five times as many test flights, but had no humans on board at all.
Either way, the two want to bragging that they were the first to visit space on their own rocket and that they floated in zero gravity for several minutes.
Mr. Branson, who will turn 71 in a few days, considers it “very important” to experience it before welcoming space tourists on board. He assures us that he is not afraid. After all, we’re talking about an adventurer who crossed the channel in kite surfing and who tried to circumnavigate the world in a balloon.
“When I was a kid, I wanted to go into space. When my generation seemed unlikely, I signed up to Virgin Galactic with the idea of creating a company that would make it possible,” he wrote online this week.
Seventeen years after the creation of Virgin Galactic, he is on the verge of realizing his dream.
“It’s amazing that the idea takes you, no matter how crazy it seems at first,” he said.
Bezos, 57, resigned as Amazon CEO on Monday. It was announced in June that it would be aboard the first manned flight of the New Shepard capsule, on the 52nd anniversary of the moon landings of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.
He said on Instagram that he also had childhood dreams of being in space. “On July 20, I will be taking this trip with my brother. The greatest adventure, with my best friend.”
M. Branson devait s’envoler plus tard cette année, à bord du deuxième ou du troisième vol d’essai de Virgin Galactic avant l’accueil des clients payants l’an prochain, mais il a changé d’idée de la à la fin last week.
He says he does not want to defeat Mr. Bezos and that this is not a race. But he announced his decision just hours after Mr. Bezos announced that he would be accompanied by Wally Funk, one of the last survivors of the group called Mercury 13. The thirteen female pilots had never flown into space despite having passed in the early 1960s. The same tests performed by the astronauts (all men) in the Mercury 7 program.
Mr. Bezos did not say anything about Mr. Branson’s theft.
But members of Blue Origin point out that their capsule will pass through the Karman Line (which marks the beginning of space, 100 kilometers above sea level), while Virgin Galactic will climb just 88 kilometers.
Many organizations recognize that the Kerman Line is the boundary between the upper atmosphere and space. Other agencies, such as NASA, accept a minimum altitude of 80 kilometers.
Blue Origin flights take about ten minutes and end with a canopy in the desert. Virgin Galactic flights last about fifteen years, from the time the aircraft launched and its own engines turned on, and ended with landing.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX doesn’t make such sneaky visits. Its capsules go into orbit and target the planet Mars.
“There’s a big difference between going into space and going into orbit,” he said on Twitter last week.
Mr. Musk has already led ten astronauts to NASA’s International Space Station. His company’s first private spaceflight is scheduled for September for a billionaire who has bought a three-day adventure in orbit.
Either way, Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin claim their customers are “astronauts”. More than 600 people spent $250,000 to get a seat on Virgin Galactic. Blue Origin will announce ticket prices and accept reservations after Mr. Bezos’ trip.