The space race between the United States and the former Soviet Union may be a thing of the past, but it’s raging harder than ever between a group of billionaires, each of whom is vying to be the first and biggest name in commercial space travel. While Elon Musk and SpaceX are hard at work devising ways to get our collective asses to Mars, Sir Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos are currently neck-and-neck in the race to be the first to put people into space.
According to an interview with the BBC, Branson asserts that while “Elon [Musk] is doing fantastically well getting cargo into space, and he’s building bigger and bigger rockets,” the race to make commercial space travel a reality is between his company, Virgin Galactic, and Bezos’ Blue Origin. The good news? It’s much closer to happening than one might expect. “We’re talking about months away, not years away — so it’s close,” Branson said. “There are exciting times ahead.”
These times are particularly exciting for Branson, who is currently undergoing astronaut training in order to condition his body for space travel and become one of the world’s first space tourists within the next 12 months. In order to get his body into peak physical condition, Branson is playing tennis four times a day, as well as “going kiting and biking — doing whatever it takes to make [him] as fit as possible.” In addition to that, Branson is enrolling himself in centrifuge training, a grueling process which is meant to replicate the forces the human body experiences during liftoff and traveling through the Earth’s atmosphere.
Not to be outdone, Bezos wants to begin offering suborbital space tourism flights by 2019 through Blue Origin, and has his sights set on creating settlements on the moon. “In the not-too-distant future — I’m talking decades, maybe 100 years, it’ll start to be easier to do a lot of the things that we currently do on Earth in space, because we’ll have so much energy,” Bezos told the audience at last week’s Space Development Conference where he also saved The Expanse from cancelation. “We will have to leave this planet. We’re going to leave it, and it’s going to make this planet better.”
Of course, it’s all billionaire bluster until we see tangible results. British satire magazine Private Eye has kept track of the number of times Branson has claimed space travel is in our near future, and the total of broken promises currently sits at 15, according to Business Insider.
“Ultimately, we have to do it safely,” Branson said, perhaps referencing the 2014 accident in which Virgin Galactic’s VSS Enterprise crashed during a test flight over a California desert, killing a pilot in the process. “It’s more a race with ourselves to make sure we have the craft that are safe to put people up there.”
Take your time, future spacefaring billionaires…but just don’t take too long.
But wait, there’s even more on today’s episode of Muskwatch…including the fact that we won’t be calling it Muskwatch anymore. We’re breaking down Elon Musk’s plan to police truthiness in the media, updates on SpaceX’s BFR, and much more!
Muskwatch airs on Nerdist.com and YouTube every Tuesday, but you can watch all new episodes two full days earlier on Sunday if you’re an Alpha subscriber. If you’re not already, find out how you can get 30 days free right here.
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Images: Virgin Galactic