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Richard Branson explains when space travel will be possible for the public

Joe Harker

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Richard Branson explains when space travel will be possible for the public

Richard Branson has revealed when he believes commercial space travel will become available to the general public.

For the longest time space, that final frontier, used to be something only the wealthiest governments in the world could dream of reaching.

In recent years, some of the wealthiest individuals in the world have thrown their hats into the ring, funding their own space projects and even managing to fly up there themselves.

Elon Musk hasn't yet been to space, but he is planning to land a man on Mars before the end of the decade, having founded his company SpaceX in 2002 with the idea of developing reusable rockets and commercial spacecraft.

Amazon boss Jeff Bezos has funded his own program where he managed to put himself in space, and he even made William Shatner, Star Trek's original Captain Kirk, the world's oldest astronaut.

However, in the billionaire’s space race Bezos was narrowly beaten by Virgin boss Branson, who made it into space a few days before Bezos.

Richard Branson has said it will be some time before commercial space travel is viable. Credit: Terry Caws / Alamy Stock Photo
Richard Branson has said it will be some time before commercial space travel is viable. Credit: Terry Caws / Alamy Stock Photo

Like Musk, Branson has the stated aim of developing commercial space travel and turning it into something people could one day make use of themselves.

Sitting down with LADbible, the Virgin Galactic boss declared that his company were 'at the start of making it more accessible to more people' but conceded that the days of space travel being widely available were still some way off.

Branson admitted that any big leap forward in space travel taking it from a few test flights into something commercial the public could pay for was 'gonna take some years'.

How many years exactly is hard to pin down, but it looks like we're talking double figures rather than something which is going to be happening in the near future.

He said: "I think realistically, it is. I mean, normally, I talk ahead of myself, but I think that before it becomes like commercial airline travel it's going to take a few decades.

“But what I can say is we'll do our best to speed it up. I'm getting I'm getting on and I'd like to see it. We’ll go as quickly as we can."

The billionaire added: “I do plant that flag ahead and then try to get that get the troops around me to make sure that we reach that flag, or reach that milestone. I've been fortunate in my lifetime that by and large we’ve managed in the end to get to that flag. You chivvy you and everybody along."

The Virgin entrepreneur was the first of the billionaires working on space travel to make it up there. Credit: HBO
The Virgin entrepreneur was the first of the billionaires working on space travel to make it up there. Credit: HBO

With the possibility of commercial space travel likely still being a few decades away, the Virgin Galactic boss admitted that while it is something he’d like to see it for himself, he is 'getting on' and it may be up to future generations to finish the job.

He also addressed the fact that space travel might be alluring to many people, but not everyone has dreamed of breaking free from the mortal bonds of the Earth to float among the stars.

Branson reckoned that there was about '50 percent of the population that would just love to go to space', while he suspected that a similar proportion 'think we’re mad' for trying to make it.

He also sought to allay people’s concerns about how safe commercial space travel could be, as space is a place singularly inhospitable to human beings.

With every other form of transport, something has gone horribly wrong at some point, and when it did people could at the very least count on their disaster taking place within a planetary atmosphere with breathable air.

People have survived plane crashes and sinking ships in miraculous circumstances, but a disaster in space is an entirely different prospect.

The dream of commercial space travel especially begs all sorts of questions about safety, you need a reusable craft which works just as well the thousandth time you fly it as the first.

Branson's documentary on HBO opens with him recording a goodbye message for his family ahead of his trip to space. Credit: HBO
Branson's documentary on HBO opens with him recording a goodbye message for his family ahead of his trip to space. Credit: HBO

It would be impossible to say there were not worries about the risks considering Branson’s recent HBO documentary opened with footage of him recording a goodbye message for his family ahead of his journey in the event that the worst should happen.

Nonetheless, Branson believes it’s 'a lot safer than the some of the adventures that we originally embarked on', referring to his audacious attempts to fly across the world's largest oceans in hot air balloons.

The billionaire believes those endeavours were more dangerous than space travel, and in the end he survived all three adventures.

Virgin are expected to conduct the UK's first orbital space launch from the recently opened Spaceport Cornwall site in Newquay later today (9 January), with plans for the company to launch nine satellites into orbit around the Earth.

Branson recounted his ventures into space travel in the updated version of his latest autobiography Finding My Virginity, with four new chapters covering the exploits of Virgin Galactic and the efforts to get closer to the stars.

The updated version of Finding My Virginity by Richard Branson is available to buy now while Branson, a four part docuseries, is available to stream on NOW.

Featured Image Credit: Virgin Galactic

Topics: Richard Branson, Space, News, Technology

Joe Harker
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