Richard Branson announces trip to space, ahead of Jeff Bezos

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This image provided by Virgin Galactic shows, from left: Chief Pilot Dave Mackay, Lead Operations Engineer Colin Bennett, Chief Astronaut Instructor Beth Moses, Founder of Virgin Galactic Richard Branson, Vice President of Government Affairs and Research Operations Sirisha Bandla and pilot Michael Masucci. Branson is aiming to beat fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos into space by nine days. Branson’s company announced Thursday, July 1, 2021 that its next test flight will be July 11 and that its founder will be among the six people on board. The winged rocket ship will soar from New Mexico _ the first carrying a full crew of company employees. It will be only the fourth trip to space for Virgin Galactic. (Virgin Galactic via AP)

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson is aiming to beat fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos into space by nine days.

Branson’s company announced Thursday evening that its next test flight will be July 11 and that its founder will be among the six people on board, all company employees. The winged rocket ship will soar from New Mexico — the first carrying a full crew.

Bezos, meanwhile, plans to blast into space from West Texas on July 20, the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. He’ll be on the debut flight of a Blue Origin rocket, accompanied by his brother, a female aerospace pioneer and the winner of a $28 million charity auction.

As late as Wednesday, Branson declined to say when he would rocket into space because of restrictions placed on him by his publicly traded company. But he stressed he was healthy and fit to fly as soon as his engineers give him the go. He’ll turn 71 a week after the scheduled launch.

Virgin Galactic launches its rocket ship from an aircraft, reaching an altitude of roughly 55 miles. Blue Origin launches its New Shepard rocket from the ground, with its capsule soaring to about 66 miles.. Both those heights are considered the edge of space. By comparison, SpaceX launches its capsules — both crew and cargo — into orbit around the world.

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