Jeff Bezos in front of Blue Origin’s space capsule
Jeff Bezos, Sir Richard Branson and Elon Musk, aka the ‘NewSpace’ set, all say they were inspired by the first moon landing in 1969, when the US defeated the Soviet Union in the space race, and there’s no question how much it would mean for each of them to win the ‘new space race’.
Amazon founder Bezos appeared to be the first of the three to fly to space after announcing plans to launch on July 20 aboard his space company’s New Shepard spacecraft, Blue Origin, but Branson beat him to it.
The British billionaire became Virgin Galactic Astronaut 001 when he reached space on a suborbital flight nine days before Bezos — on July 11 during a test flight.
Bezos traveled to space on July 20 with his younger brother Mark, Oliver Daemen, an 18-year-old physics student whose father bought his ticket, and pioneering female astronaut Wally Funk, 82.
While SpaceX and Tesla founder Musk have said he wants to go into space, and even “die on Mars,” he hasn’t said when he could orbit Earth — but has bought a ticket from Virgin Galactic. for a suborbital flight.
SpaceX became the first of the “space tourism” operators to send a full civilian crew into orbit, with the Inspiration4 mission funded by billionaire Jared Isaacman.
Its flight was on a Dragon capsule and SpaceX rocket built by space-obsessed billionaire, Elon Musk, and set off for the three-day orbital journey on Sept. 16 — higher than the International Space Station.
SpaceX appears to be leading the wider space race of billionaires with numerous launches bringing NASA equipment to the ISS and partnerships to send tourists to space by 2021.
On February 6, 2018, SpaceX sent a rocket to Mars orbit, 140 million miles away, with Musk’s own red Tesla roadster attached to it.
Elon Musk with his Dragon Crew capsule
SpaceX also has two groups of astronauts to the | International Space Station, with crews from NASA, ESA and JAXA, the Japanese space agency.
SpaceX has sent batches of 60 satellites into space to help form its Starlink network, which is already in beta and will provide high-speed internet to rural areas.
Branson and Virgin Galactic take a different approach to conquer space. It has repeatedly and successfully conducted test flights of the Virgin Galactic spaceplane Unity.
The former took place in December 2018 and the latter on May 22, with the flight accelerating to over 2,000 miles per hour (Mach 2.7).
More than 600 affluent clients, including celebrities Brad Pitt and Katy Perry, have reserved a $250,000 (£200,000) seat on one of Virgin’s space trips. The final tickets are expected to cost $350,000.
Branson has previously said he expects Elon Musk to win the race to Mars with his private rocket company SpaceX.
Richard Branson with the Virgin Galactic vessel
SpaceShipTwo can carry six passengers and two pilots. Each passenger gets the same seating position with two large windows – one on the side and one above the head.
The spaceship is 60 feet long with a 90-inch diameter cabin, giving the astronauts maximum space to float without gravity.
It climbs to 50,000 feet before the rocket motor ignites. SpaceShipTwo separates from its carrier, White Knight II, once it has passed the 50-mile mark.
Passengers become “astronauts” when they reach the Karman line, the limit of the Earth’s atmosphere.
The spacecraft will then make a suborbital journey with about six minutes of weightlessness, with the entire flight taking about 1.5 hours.
Bezos revealed in April 2017 that he funds Blue Origin with approximately $1 billion (£720 million) worth of Amazon stock annually.
The system consists of a pressurized crew pod atop a reusable ‘New Shepard’ booster missile.
At its peak, the capsule reached 65 miles (104 kilometers), just above the official space threshold, and landed vertically seven minutes after launch.
Blue Origin is working on New Glenn, the next-generation heavy lift rocket, which will compete with the SpaceX Falcon 9.