In two hours, Richard Branson (and five other Virgin Galactic employees) will attempt a historic flight to the edge of outer space. Bloomberg points out it will be followed 9 days later by Jeff Bezos’s rocket trip with Blue Origin on July 20.
“Yeah, there’s a little bit of competition in the who’s going first or when things are happening,” Virgin President Mike Moses, a former space shuttle manager at NASA, told CBS News. “But it’s really not a race. It’s not a competition. I know that sounds maybe a little shallow or disingenuous, but it’s not.
“It’s a small community. I know dozens of people who work at Blue Origin, I know dozens and dozens of people at SpaceX, and we all used to work together at NASA. And I wish every single one of them the best…. Because all of us together is what’s going to get humans into space and our culture to recognize that space travel is the foundation for the future for everyone…”
“This has been a long journey for him,” Mike Moses said of Branson. “He’s like a kid in a candy store here in training this week. He’s bouncing around, he’s happy, excited. … But that excitement is really infectious. And so the whole crew is feeling it.”
CNN points out that Branson has “narrowly avoided being killed numerous times in his nearly 71 years,” including dangerous stunts like bunjee jumping that left him bloody and injured, as well as accidents during long-distance balloon flights while attempting to set records.
Here’s how Branson describes some of them in his second autobiography, “Finding My Virginity,” which includes an appendix called “75 Close Shaves”:
1972: Survived a fishing boat sinking on honeymoon with my first wife, Kristen, off Mexico. We decided to jump off the boat and swim for shore, while the others stayed put — we were the only survivors.
1976: Flew a microlight aircraft by mistake. It was the first time I’d sat in it, I had no idea how to fly it and accidentally took off. I was pulling wires out desperately. I cut the engine and managed to crash-land into a field. My instructor died in an accident the next day…
1986: On my first time skydiving, there was one cord that opened the parachute and one that got rid of it. I pulled the wrong cord by mistake. I was falling through the air before an instructor managed to yank my spare ripcord…
1989: I decided to make an entrance to my wedding with Joan, dangling from a helicopter in an all-white suit. I dropped into the shallow end of the pool by mistake, smashed my legs, and spent the whole wedding hobbling.