By Ron Howells • 10 July 2021 • 22:17
Sir Richard Branson.
Sir Richard Branson plans to make astronautical history this weekend by becoming the first billionaire in space.
Sir Richard Branson, the 70-year-old Virgin Galactic founder will lift off on Sunday, July 11, afternoon from a runway near the small town of Truth and Consequences in New Mexico on the maiden passenger flight of his company’s SpaceShipTwo spaceplane.
Dubbed the VSS Unity, it will be lifted to about 50,000ft by a specially made aeroplane, WhiteKnightTwo, before detaching from the mother ship, firing its hybrid rocket engine and climbing beyond Earth’s atmosphere into space.
Sir Richard will then enjoy a few minutes of weightlessness and unbeatable views through Unity‘s 12 windows, before re-entering the atmosphere and gliding back down to a conventional landing between one and two hours after launch.
“At that moment, we will have become astronauts,” Sir Richard told a US TV crew last week. “I will pinch myself. And pinch myself again and again. I can’t wait.”
This is the experience that Virgin hopes to begin selling to space tourists as early as next year, with 700 customers already having bought tickets for between $200,000 and $250,000.
If the mission is successful, Sir Richard will narrowly beat his rival Jeff Bezos, the richest person in the world, who recently stepped down as Amazon chief executive to focus on other projects such as his space exploration company Blue Origin.
Mr Bezos and his brother Mark will blast off in a more conventional two-stage rocket called New Shepard on July 20. Sir Richard and Mr Bezos are vying to capture the nascent space tourism industry, which will be worth around $3.4bn by 2028 according to analysts.
On Friday Blue Origin hit back at its competitor by claiming that Sir Richard will not be a real astronaut because he will not be going above the Kármán line, which some scientists use to define the boundary of outer space.
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Ron actually started his working career as an Ophthalmic Technician- things changed when, during a band rehearsal, his amplifier blew up and he couldn’t get it fixed so he took a course at Birmingham University and ended up doing a degree course. He built up a chain of electronics stores and sold them as a franchise over 35 years ago. After five years touring the world Ron decided to move to Spain with his wife and son, a place they had visited over the years, and only bought the villa they live in because it has a guitar-shaped swimming pool!.
Playing the guitar since the age of 7, he can often be seen, (and heard!) at beach bars and clubs along the length of the coast. He has always been interested in the news and constantly thrives to present his articles in an interesting and engaging way.
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