Richard Branson launched his Virgin Galactic rocket into space on Sunday, making him the first billionaire to reach the last frontier in the “billionaire space race.”
The British entrepreneur, who will turn 71 in a week, left Spaceport America in New Mexico, roughly 180 miles south of Albuquerque, with five employees shortly after 8:30 a.m. local time.
Branson had planned to fly later this summer, but his plans were pushed forwards after fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos announced on July 20 that he will launch his own rocket into orbit from West Texas.
The Virgin test flight represents the company’s first voyage to the edge of space, with all six seats filled to capacity.
Branson posted a video of himself cycling up to the launch location for the passenger rocket plane, which will fly more than 50 miles over the New Mexican desert.
“You’re running late!” Let’s get this party started! Beth Moses, Virgin Galactic’s primary astronaut instructor, could be heard saying to him, “Let’s get suited up.”
Branson also shared a photo with another billionaire space tourism entrepreneur, SpaceX creator Elon Musk, who was present to cheer him on before the launch.
“It’s wonderful to start the day with a friend. Branson remarked on Twitter, “I’m feeling terrific, enthusiastic, and ready.”
On Instagram, Bezos, the third billionaire in the “billionaire space race,” wished Branson well.
“Wishing you and the rest of the team a safe and successful flight tomorrow.” He wrote, “Best of luck!”
Source: Abaca/Sipa USA
- Virgin Galactic Rocket: Abaca/Sipa USA
- Richard Branson: Reuters