Entrepreneur space race: Bezos vs Branson - who will leave earth first?

Bezos’ space firm says it expects to begin passenger flights in 2018

Bezos penis shaped spaceship

Blast off for Bezos’ phallic spaceship, the New Shepard, January 2016

Back in the 20th Century, it was states who engaged in space races. Now, state power plays second fiddle to the extraordinary spending power of multinational companies and their indomitable founders.

The space race of the 21st century looks like this: Virgin founder Richard Branson vs Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

Like the original space race, pride is a major factor. There are some serious egos on the line.

But in addition, the financial prize is there for the winning.

Whichever company can provide the safest, most enjoyable space flight, will no doubt earn stratospheric quantities of money.  

Branson’s Virgin Galactic space programme has a long list of celebrity and multi-millionaire backers, each hoping to climb aboard a space plane. Tickets on Branson’s SpaceShipTwo cost $250,000, but the project has seen numerous delays, including a fatal test flight in 2014.

But Bezos is throwing down the gauntlet, saying his own space company, Blue Origin, is looking to provide rides into space for wealthy customers as early as 2018.

According to Business Insider, which is part-owned by Bezos, the entrepreneur said: “We’ll probably fly test pilots in 2017, and if we’re successful then I’d imagine putting paying astronauts on in 2018.” 

No price has been announced, but Bezos said tickets would be “competitive”, and that he expects the business to make a profit.  

“I’m optimistic it will be a healthy business,” Bezos said.

Blue Origin has already created one rocket-powered craft, which crashed during a test flight in 2015, and a second ship has made two test flights.

It is also in the process of building a new aircraft which for the first time will feature windows, affording any passengers a view of what’s outside.

But who will win? Which brave entrepreneur will be the first to etch their company logo onto the sub-orbital atmosphere? And which will be left choking on the toxic rocket fuel of their rival? The race is on.

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