A Race to the Edge of Space.

Unlike the space race that took place during the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, the space race of today is quite different. It’s taking place between two multi billion dollar companies; Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. These two titans are both steadily approaching the start of what could be a new era of travel for mankind.

Richard Branson facing Jeff Bezos in space suits
When billionaires collide!
Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photos: Arif Hudaverdi Yaman (Anadolu Agency), James D. Morgan/Getty Images

To be more specific, the race we are referring to is to be the first commercial flight, since NASA and other space agencies around the world have already made similar flights before using their own technology and pilots. Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin, however, hope to be the first to take passengers from the private sector on the fantastic flight just above Earth’s uppermost atmosphere, AKA “the edge of space”. For just a few brief minutes the lucky millionaires (The Blue Origin ticket alone cost the winner $28M) will not only make history, but also get to enjoy some very cool scenery and some microgravity to boot.

The two companies also have radical differences in approach, with Virgin Galactic’s solution looking much more appealing. Its jet plane is sure to make for a much smoother ride compared to Blue Origin’s rocket that requires a full on blast off approach as well as a scary parachute landing. While this may appeal to more hardcore space fans who want to feel like a real astronaut, most of us will likely prefer the more traditional approach that could simply take off from any large airport in the future.

But who will get there first? So far it’s looking like Bezos has the lead, since he has a set an actual launch date; July 20 2021. While Branson is determined to launch around the same time, if not sooner, no specifical launch date has been announced as of yet. It’s been hinted on more than one occasion that Branson is determined to get there before Blue Origin does, but Virgin’s spokesperson says the company does not “have any announcements about Virgin Galactic’s future flight plans at this time.”

And even if they both pick dates, there is also the possibility of flight delays for any number of reasons. Flights of this magnitude require careful planning and can’t be rushed. This is especially true since the billionaires who own them will be on board themselves! There is a very long list of reasons why the flights could be delayed, or even cancelled, as safety is priority number one if commercial space flight hopes to have a future. Be sure to stay tuned as the race takes off in July. The excitement has only just begun!

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