Happy Monday! I got my second vaccine shot today, so if there’s no newsletter tomorrow it’s either because I’m feverish or enjoying my new Magneto superpowers.
The billionaire space race
The private space race has been raging for well over a decade now, but yesterday marked the first time one of these billionaire space-preneurs put their money where their mouth is and actually took the trip to space.
- Sir Richard Branson took a trip aboard his company’s VSS Unity rocket plane, reaching a height of 85km, or roughly 53 miles.
- That’s technically just the very edge of space, and only by US standards. The true international standard for space (called the Kármán line) begins at 100km.
- But that’s just splitting hairs.
- The event was broadcast live, although there were some technical problems getting live signals from the craft in space. You can watch the full video here.
- He was joined by Beth Moses, Colin Bennett, and Sirisha Bandla, all high-ranking members of the company, there to run tests and experiments. They join a list of fewer than 600 people to reach these heights.
Branson, on the other hand, was just there as a tourist.
- This makes him the winner of the billionaire space race, edging out Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk to take the crown.
- While floating in sub-orbit, he had this to say:
- “To all you kids out there — I was once a child with a dream, looking up to the stars. Now I’m an adult in a spaceship…. If we can do this, just imagine what you can do.”
- (Sidenote: You will need roughly $5 billion.)
- Many people decry these ventures as vanity projects for the ultra-wealthy, with more pressing problems like world hunger and rampaging inequality far more deserving of their attention and funding.
- And they’re not wrong.
That said, the goal is to bring this to the public at large (and make a spaceship-load of cash doing so).
- Branson first founded Virgin Galactic 17 years ago, way back in 2004. He initially thought he could bring space tourism to commercial markets by 2007.
- Although the company missed that goal by a long shot, there are plans to start commercial flights in early 2022.
- The company has already sold more than 600 tickets at $250,000 for future flights. Customers include Tom Hanks, Justin Bieber, and Leonardo DiCaprio.
- The other space tourism company, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, will also offer commercial suborbital flights, reaching heights beyond 100km (60 miles).
- Elon Musk’s SpaceX aims even higher by making rockets capable of achieving orbital velocity. This turns the trip into hours or days in space, instead of minutes.
- Granted, that will cost significantly more. Recent travelers to the International Space Station paid $55 million for the 10-day trip.
- Meanwhile the rest of us are barely justifying our daily coffee expenses.
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Yesterday brought the exciting conclusion of the Euro 2020 championship, with Italy taking home the cup. The meme above (via Reddit user u/Dresik74) sums up how most of Europe felt about the finals.
Until tomorrow (hopefully),
Nick Fernandez, Editor