Virgin Galactic Will Launch People Into Space "in About 4 Months," Says Richard Branson
Virgin Galactic will finally launch a human into space in just four months, Virgin founder Richard Branson announced today.
Despite being one of the earliest players to announce plans to create services for the space tourism market, Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic hasn't been making the big, public shows of progress that we've seen from its competitors.
For years now, Virgin has been engaged in research and development projects relating to its adventure plans, with Branson happily talking in the abstract about what things will be like once Virgin Galactic is up and running, without having much concrete progress to talk about that doesn't involve making Harrison Ford look incredibly bored on one of the rockets.
Today though it looks like the company is moving towards a major milestone.
Richard Branson has now announced that he expects Virgin Galactic to send their first astronauts into space "in about four months."
There's still a lot to be done before Virgin Galactic's craft, the VSS Unity, is ready to launch off-world. The spaceship will be subjected to a series of test flights and other procedures to ensure it's capable of traveling off-world safely, without one of the fairly dangerous explosions that Elon Musk experienced during his early attempts to establish a commercial space service.
It's worth noting that Virgin seems to be fluid in its current goal of space travel. While Branson has now said that he's hoping for a successful launch in four months, just a few weeks ago at the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight, Virgin Galactic's president Mike Moss said that they were aiming to launch by the end of the year. Either none of these goals are set in stone, or the team at Virgin very recently received some bad news about the program that forced them to amend their deadlines.
Either way, Branson insists that sooner or later, Virgin Galactic will be up and running, and that neither he, nor Amazon's Jeff Bezos, are particularly concerned about Elon Musk's SpaceX beating them to the punch.
According to Branson, other space tourism companies can afford to take their time; Musk is so obsessed with his long-term passion project of establishing a colony on Mars that he's overlooking the more immediate business opportunities available to those who own private rocket ships, Branson says.
So how exactly does Richard Branson plan on improving life on planet Earth? Mostly by shooting Lady Gaga into space.
Branson's big plan to make Virgin Galactic stand out from other space tourism offerings is his desire to put concerts and celebrity meet-and-greets in orbit. He has similar plans to get Leonardo DiCaprio off-world for entertainment purposes, because presumably if tourists have the money to spend on a trip to space, they've got the extra cash required to pay a famous person to go with them.
With that model in mind, we may find a tier system in place with different space tourism companies in the years to come. Average travelers will pay the least amount to fly with Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin, squished up against other tourists, but they'll get an affordable trip to space.
SpaceX, meanwhile, will cater to the rich and powerful, giving customers a more luxurious, cinematic space adventure.
Virgin Galactic, on the other hand, will be aiming at the mega-rich, who want the joys of exploring the cosmos alongside Oscar or Grammy-winning celebrities.
If you've got enough money to buy Leonardo DiCaprio and hurl him into space so you can watch him vomit, why would you miss out on such a rare opportunity?