Richard Branson moved up his space flight so that he could beat Jeff Bezos

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The 1% has gotten so rich that going to space is the new sports car. Who can get there first is how they’re measuring size. The latest more-money-than-sense d*ck waggers to enter the space race, and I do mean race, are Sir Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos. Obviously these two have been at it for a while but Bezos really thought he was going to beat both Branson and Elon Musk to be the first to go where no bored billionaire has gone before. Bezos scheduled a flight for July 20. Branson’s flight wasn’t planned until later this year. But once Sir Dick caught wind of Jeffy B’s July plans, he miraculously got his Virgin Galactic to rework everything so they can launch over the July 4 holiday. Oh good, because what’s super smart in space travel is to rush things.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos said on Monday he would fly on the first human spaceflight of his company’s New Shepard spacecraft. This mission will launch from Blue Origin’s spaceport in West Texas on July 20, which is the anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing in 1969.

With this timeline, Bezos seemed almost certain to beat his suborbital space tourism rival, Sir Richard Branson, into space. Setting aside whether Branson’s VSS Unity vehicle reaches space—its maximum altitude is just below the Kármán line, or 100 km—this is nonetheless a meaningful milestone.

For Branson, that flight was expected to come during the second half of this year. As recently as one week ago, Sirisha Bandla—vice president of government affairs for Branson’s Virgin Galactic—told Ars that the company’s plan next called for a test flight with four employees in the passenger cabin. That test, she added, would be followed by a flight carrying Branson.

“We’ve got three test flights left,” Bandla said. “We’ve got a flight with employees in the cabin. A flight with our founder, Sir Richard Branson, after that, and then to round out our flight test program, we are flying the Italian Air Force.”

However, the Bezos spaceflight scheduled for July 20 may have scrambled those plans. According to a report by Doug Messier on his Parabolic Arc website, “Virgin Galactic is working on a plan to send Branson on a suborbital flight aboard the VSS Unity SpaceShipTwo rocket plane over the July 4 holiday weekend.”
This would beat Bezos by a couple of weeks.

[From Ars Technica via DListed]

Obviously, Branson’s plans are still just a hope at this point as they aren’t even finished with testing. So whether or not he actually beats Bezos remains to be seen. Several factors could postpone any of these flights. On the DListed podcast, they talk more about the Kármán line, explaining about how it’s just over 62 miles above sea level. That means it’s much closer to earth than the space stations. So this race is more like the first person who puts a foot in the freezing cold ocean but races back to the warm sand. Not that I am trying to take away from these men’s accomplishment of having enough money to fly to space, just that we don’t need to photoshop them into The Right Stuff posters. These guys have more money than they will ever spend and if this is how they need to use it, I guess go for it. I don’t know what the draw is, whether it’s to be first or to say they went to space. This is the ultimate display of wealth in such a grotesque way. It’s possible this fulfills some childhood fantasy of being able to reach the stars, but I doubt it. I think it has bragging clout and that’s about it.

I was shocked that Elon Musk is not part of this discussion and has not been to space. Sure, he’s sending folks, but he hasn’t been and has not scheduled his own flight. There are a theories why that range from lack of time to wanting others to have the first shot. I was hoping when we went to space we’d send our best and brightest, not our richest and thirstiest. If any of our intergalactic friends are reading this, please don’t judge the rest of us by what’s coming. Visit the space stations instead, that’s a better example of what we’d like to bring to the table.

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29 Responses to “Richard Branson moved up his space flight so that he could beat Jeff Bezos”

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  1. Robyn says:

    This is such a weird d*ck measuring contest. There are plenty of things here on Earth that could desperately use your hoarded wealth, my dudes. I promise you’ll still get the legacy mileage from it that you crave.

    • The Hench says:

      I am with you on this viewpoint. It makes me so bloody angry. Here we are with the most beautiful and amazing and hospitable-to-life planet in our universe that SO desperately needs our help and these rich ar*eholes are spending BILLIONS to get to a planet that nobody in their right mind would want to live on. Yes, great idea, let’s float about in space or live on Mars, a planet that’s lost its atmosphere and let this precious one continue dying.

    • It’sJustBlanche says:

      Branson should focus on his messed up adults-only cruise line which failed to appeal to all the hipsters they were targeting and had the misfortune of launching the same week everything shut down. They’re literally giving away cruises to those in the travel industry. All you had to do was take a 45 minute course and boom, free cabin for 2 on any of their first two ships. I got one and I don’t even want it.

    • Lorelei says:

      @Robyn MTE— they should get a damn ruler, measure themselves to get it done with, then use this money to feed starving people and make sure everyone here on Earth has access to clean water. Idiots

  2. LaraW” says:

    Fun legal fact: Amazon changed their Terms of Service so they no longer require conflicts to be handled by arbitration. Legal gossip is that Amazon dropped mandatory arbitration completely because Bezos doesn’t want to be deposed for arbitrations while in space. WSJ will tell you that there are other (valid-ish) reasons, but Amazon has money to burn on the recent mass arbitration filings— it really didn’t need to change the policy, especially since the trend has been to push people more aggressively towards arbitration, not drop it entirely.

    If y’all have beef against Amazon and want to sue— now’s the time!

  3. Nina says:

    With all his shenanigans so far, I think he got lucky to be alive and well. I hope this is atually safe to do. I’ve seen a few test flights of Musks spacecrafts and this stuff is dangerous. Pushing timelines is a dangerous business, too. I’m no expert but what I understood from reading about the Challenger disaster is that the date the flight was scheduled the weather was particularly bad and far from ideal flight conditions. Experts warned against it but they went ahead anyway because of not wanting to wait longer.

    • The Hench says:

      Yes. On Challenger they were specifically warned by one of their lead scientists that the O ring seals would contract too much to, er, seal, below a certain temperature – which the temperature was forecast to be on the morning of the launch but he was over-ruled. It was entirely avoidable and is now taught as a classic case of the Abilene Paradox.

      • Christina says:

        The Challenger Disaster was the case study that they used to illustrate how important it is to clearly and firmly communicate risk and escalate that communication as far as it needs to go, when I was doing my undergrad in engineering.

        Standing up to a manager that is pushing time pressure and production risk and saying: “No, we can’t do that, because it is too dangerous,” can be very, very difficult the first time someone tries to push you into a corner.

        So the very idea of the pressure that is being put on technical staff by this kind of grandstanding gives me hives.

    • Robyn says:

      The You’re Wrong About podcast has an excellent episode in the Challenger disaster. Worth a listen regardless, but the same issues apply here.

  4. NTheMiddle says:

    I like to dream of a world where women have this amount of wealth and power.

  5. Bryn says:

    Which billionaire will be the first to die in space? Because honestly that’s how I think this will end

  6. Mina_Esq says:

    I for one am rooting for Sir Dick, and i hope that this accelerates plans for commercial flights to space via Virgin Galactic. J/k I’ll never be able to afford a trip to space, but I am a huge fan of Virgin Atlantic and wouldn’t mind seeing a literal Space Lounge added to their list of amenities :)

  7. Darla says:

    Am I such a horrible person because when I got to the end I saw that pic of Bezos with his joker-faced gf and screamed in surprise and laughter.

    All I will say about this is, this is not the future Star Trek promised us.

  8. Becks1 says:

    I can’t even with these clowns. We’re still in the midst of a global pandemic and they’re fighting over who is the first billionaire in space.

    Side note: we’re watching “For all Mankind” on Apple plus, which is excellent, but it makes me never ever want to go to space lol. so much can go wrong so fast!

    • Nicole says:

      I’m with you on both counts! Think I’ll keep my feet firmly on the ground and explore the world that sustains us. I’ll leave the space quest for the Bozos of the the world…..Freudian slip, I meant Bezos.

  9. NotHeidisGirl says:

    And I hope neither of them returns. Can the crews please leave them up there floating in space?
    I just can’t with money wasting twats.

  10. Nina says:

    So this is what rich white men are up to. All that money, wealth, power and technology, not a shred of compassion for a world that’s suffering under an epidemic

    • CHIMES@MIDNIGHT says:

      He (Branson) donated $250 to preserve jobs at his airline during the height of the pandemic.

      He covered overhead and costs to help provide ventilators and medical supplies to African countries as well.

      He has Virgin Unite, his charitable organization.

      He pledged 3 billion to fighting global warming and develop low carbon fuels.

      He also offered a 25 million prize to scientists developing methods to combat climate change (Earth Challenge).

      • Robyn says:

        That’s all well and good, but it’s also a shell game of tax shelters and PR to make them look benevolent so we give them a pass on grotesque wealth hoarding.

  11. Amelie says:

    I’m the kind of person who really doesn’t understand the need to go to space and space travel tourism. There’s so much to see and do on our planet, I will spend my lifetime trying to see it all (I won’t be able to). I love looking at documentaries about space and I respect astronauts for what they do. But the Space Race of billionaires is not something that interests me. And this may be harsh to say but if any of them die, I won’t feel bad. Maybe because I’m not absurdly rich I don’t get it.

  12. Reindeer says:

    Meanwhile, my husband and I go without food so our kids can eat…

    This is utterly disgusting and grotesque.

    EAT THE RICH.

  13. Ariel says:

    May they all die in prison for their crimes. They bribery and power they use to keep from paying taxes b/c there is never ENOUGH for them.

  14. L4frimaire says:

    Have these ego driven geezers even thought that they may not come back from these flights or the effect it has on their bodies? What if the rocket explodes or they pass out? Astronauts undergo extensive training for years to get up there and it’s not a boys with expensive toys vanity project for them. Bezos can do this and super yachts but can’t handle a unionized work force.

  15. Golly Gee says:

    Billionaires, they’re just like us.

  16. april says:

    To Bezos’ advantage, if Branson doesn’t make it back then Bezos will know to cancel his trip.

  17. Coji says:

    One of my friends joked that they’re in a hurry to go to space because guillotines require gravity.