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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 October 2018

Richard Branson: Virgin Galactic to launch space flight 'within weeks'

Billionaire British entrepreneur said the company was 'more than tantalisingly close' to launching its first mission to space

Virgin Galactic is racing against Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin to launch the first flight taking paying passengers into space. AFP
Virgin Galactic is racing against Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin to launch the first flight taking paying passengers into space. AFP

British entrepreneur Richard Branson said on Tuesday that he expects his Virgin Galactic company to conduct its first space flight “within weeks, not months”.

Speaking to CNBC in Singapore, the billionaire Virgin founder said the company was “more than tantalisingly close” to launching its first mission to space and that he himself hoped to briefly leave Earth within “months not years.”

“We will be in space with people not too long after that.”

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Welcome to the second space race

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Mr Branson’s Virgin Galactic is racing against Amazon creator Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin to launch the first flight taking paying passengers into space.

Both companies will offer customers a weightless experience that will last just minutes, passing through the imaginary line marking where space begins – either the Karman line, at 100km, or the 80km boundary recognised by the US Air Force.

At this altitude, the sky looks dark and the curvature of the Earth can be seen clearly.

The first space tourists, who visited the International Space Station (ISS) in the 2000s, paid tens of millions of dollars for the privilege.

Mr Branson said the proposed $250,000 price tag of a Virgin Galactic ticket would allow those who dreamed of visiting space to lift off in larger numbers.

“If I have a room full of 10 people, eight out of 10 would love to go to space if they could afford it,” he said.

“Ultimately,” Mr Branson said he hoped the price of a space flight would come down to around $40,000 or $50,000 over the next decade.”

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