Jeff Bezos’ space company Blue Origin mocks Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic

Branson plots trip to space next month to beat Jeff Bezos
Richard Branson beat fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos to space (Getty)

Richard Branson took to the skies yesterday and flew into space as an astronaut aboard his Virgin Galactic space plane.

But Branson’s biggest rival, the former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, has mocked the achievement of the Virgin boss.

Bezos’ own space company Blue Origin is preparing for a flight next week which will take the billionaire, alongside three other passengers, into space themselves.

And Blue Origin took issue with Virgin Galactic’s definition of space. In a tweet, the company suggested that Branson didn’t go high enough to make it to what most people consider space.

It claims that its own spacecraft, New Shepard, makes it above a well-defined boundary between Earth and outer space known as the Kármán Line.

Yesterday, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic plane reached an altitude of 53 miles above the Earth – high enough to reach Nasa’s classification of ‘astronaut’ but not high enough to break the Kármán Line at 62 miles.

Virgin Galactic's passenger rocket plane VSS Unity, carrying billionaire Richard Branson and crew, starts its ascent to the edge of space above Spaceport America near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, U.S. July 11, 2021 in a still image from video. Virgin Galactic/Handout via REUTERS. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Virgin Galactic’s passenger rocket plane VSS Unity, carrying billionaire Richard Branson and crew, starts its ascent to the edge of space (Reuters)

‘From the beginning, New Shepard was designed to fly above the Kármán line so none of our astronauts have an asterisk next to their name,’ Blue Origin wrote in a tweet.

‘For 96 per cent of the world’s population, space begins 100 km up at the internationally recognized Kármán line.

‘Only 4 per cent of the world recognizes a lower limit of 80 km or 50 miles as the beginning of space. New Shepard flies above both boundaries. One of the many benefits of flying with Blue Origin.’

And, just to twist the knife a bit further, Blue Origin said that Virgin Galactic only has ‘airplane-sized windows’.

Meanwhile, Branson has previously pointed out that the experience for those aboard Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic will be almost identical.

During an interview with National Public Radio (NPR) last Wednesday, Branson pointed out both Nasa and the US Federal Aviation Administration recoginse the 50-mile boundary as the start of space.

In addition, ‘the actual difference in experience is going to be almost non-existent,’ Branson said, explaining that passengers will get roughly equal amounts of weightless time on Unity and New Shepard.

Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson, left, receives his astronaut wings from Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield after his flight to space from Spaceport America near Truth or Consequences, N.M., Sunday, July 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)
Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson, left, receives his astronaut wings from Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield after his flight to space (Credits: AP)

Following his successful flight yesterday, Branson said he was able to evaluate the astronaut experience for future passengers.

‘I have dreamt about this moment since I was a child, but nothing could have prepared me for the view of Earth from space,’ Sir Richard said after returning to Earth.

‘We are at the vanguard of a new space age. As Virgin’s founder, I was honoured to test the incredible customer experience as part of this remarkable crew of mission specialists and now astronauts. I can’t wait to share this experience with aspiring astronauts around the world.’

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