Jeff Bezos will depart on a suborbital flight aboard his New Shepard on July 20, a very symbolic date. He will do it with his brother, aviation pioneer Wally Funk (82 years old) and another millionaire guest who paid $ 28 million to get it. He wanted to be the first tech mogul to officially usher in the era of space tourism. But he could be surpassed for a few days by others who, like him, are working on a similar project, that of Virgin Galactic (this is the interior of the plane of the companies for space tourism). Yes, we are talking about Sir Richard Branson, who his company has confirmed will jump aboard his VSS Unity spacecraft, carried up by the special spacecraft SpaceShipTwo, a handful of days before.
At first it seemed that Virgin Galactic wanted to conduct three more experimental flights – in addition to a recent successful one with two pilots on board – before concluding the testing phase. With the objective, in this confirmed case, of starting to put the first paying tourists (or almost) into orbit at the beginning of 2022. According to this plan, in the first of the three planned flights, four passengers had to go on board, in the second, Branson himself, and third, some members of the Italian Air Force. The agreement with the transalpine country dates back to October 2019 and also involves the National Research Council: the three neo-astronauts must, in fact, also carry out scientific experiments in the thermosphere during the 7-minute parabolic flight in which they will be in microgravity conditions.
All this has therefore suffered an unexpected turn: a blogger based in Mojave (California) – the area where Virgin has one of its assembly bases – explained it days ago. The group, which later confirmed it, has rearranged the schedule for the first experimental flight. To immediately launch the big boss, including him in the crew of four – all employees of the company – scheduled for the next test. The acceleration would have occurred shortly after Bezos and his Blue Origin announced their mission. The date was even supposed to be July 4, America’s Independence Day, when Congress signed the declaration in 1776. So they chose to postpone it to the 11th. Something that would be a great affront to the founder of Amazon, Who would be robbed of the media attention and the primacy of this summer under the sign of the takeoff of space tourism, something that he has been wanting to do for many years after several successes, failures, failures and much enthusiasm.
Virgin Galactic has kept top secret first (“I know there is a lot of interest and speculation, but we haven’t announced the date or the people who will be there,” Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier told cnbc) and later confirmed it, through the mouth of the 71-year-old billionaire founder himself: “I have always been a dreamer. My mother taught me never to give up and aim for the stars. July 11 will be the time to turn this dream into reality aboard Virgin Galactic’s upcoming spaceflight. “
In reality, while Branson has perhaps been more effective at creating expectations over the years, Bezos’s Blue Origin project was founded earlier: in 2000, versus Virgin’s creation in 2004. They are the real competitors. in the matter, since Elon Musk’s SpaceX is immersed in much more ambitious projects, in which it has received great successes such as the Crew Dragon capsule that has returned American astronauts to Space, and not only that, since there are prospects to return to the Moon and go even further with the Starship maxi-rocket.
The capsules of the two companies – the New Shepard is the one with the largest area occupied by windows from which to observe the curvature of the Earth on the one hand and deep space on the other, but the Virgin capsule also looks wonderful- they will reach altitudes of between 80 and 100 kilometers, skimming the Kàrmàn line, spending a few minutes in microgravity. The road will still be long: Virgin Galactic actually plans an activity based on several weekly flights, although at the moment the only ship in operation is the VSS Unity, whose interior we saw a few months ago. Anyway, we’ll see. At the moment, from headquarters they preach caution: “We are approaching it in a very methodical way, with safety as the first consideration, and when we have all the aspects checked and all the steps in order, we will be able to go ahead and make the next announcements” Colglazier concluded.
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