Anyone who thought the space race was over clearly never reckoned on the likes of Richard Branson, or Elon Musk – with the latter having recently unveiled more about his plans for SpaceX’s proposal for space tourism in the months and years to come, the former, too has been working on plans of his own to bring people deeper into the big, wide cosmos. Branson has always been something of a maverick explorer – and his ambition to create a space tourism system for people to jet into the wide black yonder has been widely publicized over the years. And why not, indeed!
Branson has this week set tongues wagging and headlines buzzing with the tantalizing news that he intends to get Virgin Galactic, his space tourism brand, up in the stratosphere within weeks. Speaking in conversation with CNBC, Branson’s space tourism wing has been quietly ticking over since 2004, while clearly still aiming to make the first leap into space travel for everyday people (those with enough money to spare on the cost of a flight, at least!). Musk, of course, is also very much in the race – as is, according to sources, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. Who’d have thought that Amazon would have made the leap from humble second-hand bookstore to space tourism board in a little over 20 years? Things are still up in the air – pun not intended – however.
“We should be in space within weeks, not months,” Branson advised in conversation. “And then we will be in space with myself in months and not years.”
“If I have a room of 10 people, eight out of 10 would love to go to space if they could afford it. It is up to us to produce as many spaceships as we can to cater to that demand.” Virgin Galactic had originally planned to get tourists up into space by 2009 – but technical issues and a crash in 2014 sent Branson and co back to the drawing board.
In any case, it seems that the waiting list for space tourism is ever-growing – but anyone hoping to board a flight will need to undergo fitness tests and training to be able to withstand the incredible pressures on board. Who knows – we could be sending regular tourist shuttles up into space within the next few years – let’s wait and see!