Richard Branson wants to transport people point-to-point across the world at 3,000 miles per hour by traveling through space — and he thinks his Virgin Galactic firm has the stuff to make it happen.
“That is something we are going to be in the best position in the world to do,” Branson told Business Insider Nordic in a story published Tuesday.
The claim comes just days after Elon Musk unveiled a similar plan, where SpaceX rockets designed for Mars missions will also work for point-to-point Earth travel. Musk’s BFR rocket would transport humans at a top speed of 18,000 miles per hour, enabling 25-minute trips between New York and Shanghai.
But though Branson has high hopes for Earth-bound travel, he readily admits that SpaceX will probably win on the Mars front. Musk plans to use two BFR rockets to transport cargo to Mars in 2022, with four further rockets visiting the red plnet in 2024 with the first human passengers.
“[Getting to Mars] is an incredible challenge, and I suspect Elon [Musk] will get there first,” Branson said. “He’s more interested in big rockets going big distances. My love for space is about how much it can do for people back here on earth.”
Branson has made no secret of his tourism-first focus for space technology. Earlier this year, he doubled down on his claim that Virgin would build a space hotel. Flights won’t be cheap, with tickets slated to cost around a quarter of a million dollars for a two-and-a-half hour trip with six minutes of weightlessness, but Branson hopes that the allure of “really sexy Virgin hotels in space” will entice consumers and bring down prices.
SpaceX, on the other hand, has taken a more science-focused approach. Like Virgin Galactic, it wants to improve the reusability of components to bring prices down and enable further trips, but Musk’s goal is to transform humanity into a multiplanetary species, refueling on planets and moving further from Earth.
It hasn’t been easy for Virgin Galactic. A fatal crash in October 2014 stalled the company’s work. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) ultimately concluded that the SpaceShipTwo crash in the Mojave desert was ultimately due to pilot error. Since then, the company’s gradually got back on its feet, with the VSS Unity craft completing more test flights this year to demonstrate the technology’s dependability.
As for when we may see Virgin Galactic crafts soaring in space? It may be sooner than expected.
“We are hopefully about three months before we are in space, maybe six months before I’m in space,” Branson said.
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