Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson are competing fiercely to outwit each other and capture the huge commercial space tourism market. And their fellow billionaire Elon Musk appears to be siding with the British entrepreneur and his Virgin Galactic venture. Musk, the SpaceX CEO who aims to colonise Mars someday and make humans a multi-planetary species, seems to have had put his money on the success of Branson even before the latter had travelled to the edge of space. Musk reportedly has a ticket for one of the future flights of Virgin Galactic.
Branson flew in the inaugural flight to zero gravity for a few minutes and returned to Earth on Sunday. He hopes the successful flight will boost the demand for tickets on future flights when the company begins commercial operations sometime next year.
A Galactic spokesman told the Wall Street Journal that Musk had bought a ticket for his own space ride. It is, however, not clear when he would fly or whether there was a long waiting list. Branson’s company plans to launch two more symbolic flights this year and then open it for the public.
Musk and Branson are known to be friends, while Musk and Bezos share a frosty relationship.
In 2019, Musk linked a report on Amazon’s plans to launch a massive constellation of more than 3,000 internet satellites. He tagged Bezos, wrote “copy” and added the emoji of a cat, implying a “copycat”.
.@JeffBezos copy ????
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 9, 2019
However, hours before Branson’s flight, Musk had said that he would be there to wish him the best and see him off.
Will see you there to wish you the best
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 10, 2021
Musk kept his word. As Branson was gearing up for his flight on Sunday, he tweeted a photograph that showed him and Musk at his home. “Big day ahead. Great to start the morning with a friend. Feeling good, feeling excited, feeling ready,” he said.
Big day ahead. Great to start the morning with a friend. Feeling good, feeling excited, feeling ready.
Watch #Unity22 launch and livestream TODAY at 7:30 am PT | 10:30 am ET | 3:30 pm BST.@virgingalactic @elonmusk https://t.co/1313b4RAKI pic.twitter.com/FRQqrQEbH8
— Richard Branson (@richardbranson) July 11, 2021
Bezos is set to fly in his New Shepard spaceship on July 20. His space tourism company, Blue Origin, meanwhile, has launched a marketing campaign to discredit Virgin Galactic’s space ambitions as an amateur effort.
From the beginning, New Shepard was designed to fly above the Kármán line so none of our astronauts have an asterisk next to their name. For 96% of the world’s population, space begins 100 km up at the internationally recognized Kármán line. pic.twitter.com/QRoufBIrUJ
— Blue Origin (@blueorigin) July 9, 2021
Blue Origin said only its rocket was capable of taking tourists past the Karman line, which at 100 km is internationally believed to be the space frontier.