Monday, August 8, 2022

Bezos & Branson’s private space race: Is it a big deal?

Within the next fortnight two American billionaires, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson will attempt to fly into space. Branson co-founder of spaceflight company Virgin Galactic, is to fly on Sunday while Bezos, world’s richest person, scheduled his rocket trip with Blue Origin LLC on July 20. Another aerospace company SpaceX, founded by the billionaire Elon Musk, has plans to send an all-civilian crew into orbit in September, though Musk himself will not fly. Both Bezos and Richard have taken some decades to realize their ambition of going into space. Blue Origin was founded in 2000 and Virgin Galactic four years later. This unusual space race remains pretty unique and risky.

This space race started on June 7 with Jeff Bezos announcement that he, his brother Mark and the winner of an auction will travel on his spaceflight company Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft during its scheduled launch on July 20. The spacecraft, a rocket-and-capsule combo, will take off from Texas, US. The passengers will experience several minutes of weightlessness on the edge of the space. Things heated on July 1 when Branson announced that he will travel to suborbital space on July 11, nine days before Bezos’ scheduled sojourn. Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShip Two Unity spacecraft will take off from a launchpad in New Mexico, US.

It’s taken a couple of decades for both men to realize their ambition of going into space. Blue Origin was founded in 2000 and Virgin Galactic four years later. This space race isn’t a big deal. It is only a way for winning some brownie points and satisfying the ego of the super-rich. Many humans (including Indians and people of Indian origin) have travelled to space and beyond. The only worthwhile thing about the sojourns of Branson and Bezos is that someone will be travelling to the edge of space in their own private spacecraft for the first time ever.

Though speculations are loaming about Elon Musk space fly as well. But Musk hasn’t shown interest in flying to space. “There is a big difference between reaching space and reaching orbit,” he tweeted recently. SpaceX has done something else. Last year, the company partnered with NASA to launch two astronauts into the International Space Station by its spacecraft Crew Dragon. It was the first time that a spacecraft owned and operated by a private company had launched humans into orbit. The spacecraft safely returned to Earth on August 3, 2020, in an event which was widely hailed as historic.


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