British Billionaire Richard Branson is going to great lengths to deny that he is in a race to fly into space ahead of US billionaire and arch rival Jeff Bezos. The controversy has arisen due to the timing of his company Virgin Galactic’s space flight which is scheduled to take off just nine days ahead of Bezo-led Blue Origin’s spacecraft.
The fact that both the promoters will be on board the flights being launched by their respective companies has only added to the element of competition between the two.
Branson said in an interview to The Washington Post : "It's just an incredible, wonderful coincidence that we're going up in the same month.”
He told the leading US newspaper that the decision to move up the Virgin Galactic spaceflight to July 11 was “honestly not intended to best” the Amazon founder, whose voyage is slated for July 20.
Branson also said on NBC's "Today Show" that he is not in a space race with Jeff Bezos. “Believe me when I say it, but honestly, there isn't competition," he said on the TV channel.
The British billionaire also said on NBC that he couldn't wait for the opportunity as he had dreamed of spaceflight since the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969. Blue Origin's flight with Bezos is scheduled to launch on the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
Branson also claimed there is plenty of room for multiple space companies to fly tourists into space.
Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos launched Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin respectively in the early 2000s. Their ultimate goal is to usher in a new-era of space tourism that enables rich clients to see the curvature of the Earth for a few minutes from space and briefly experience weightlessness.
Branson's flight takes off on Sunday from a base in New Mexico called SpacePort America. A carrier plane will take off from a runway and release the spaceship VSS Unity at 50,000 feet.
VSS Unity's two pilots will then start its rocket engines to take spacecraft to Mach 3 above the 50 miles (80 km) altitude which is considered the boundary of space by the United States.
Around 600 people are reported to have already bought tickets for going into space on board Virgin Galactic in future if its first journey turns out to be a success. They have paid a price that ranges from $200,000 to $250,000 for each ticket.
Blue Origin, on the other hand, has not released normal seat prices for its flights, but the high bid for a lucky contestant to gain a seat with Bezos fetched $ 28 million.