Richard Branson Is Trying To Beat Jeff Bezos Into Space
Uh oh, we’ve got a billionaire space fight happening, and it’s anyone’s guess who will blast into space first. Sir Richard Branson has been talking about making space his final frontier for the longest time, with a little help from his Virgin Galactic space travel company. But then Elon Musk came along with an even bigger personal budget and a hyper-focused obsession with breaking through the Earth’s atmosphere, and it really did look like Elon was going to be the first billionaire in space. But just two days ago, Jeff Bezos announced he would be living out a childhood dream with his little brother Mark Bezos at the end of July, by going to space in a ship called the New Shepard, made by his space company, Blue Origin. Jeff’s ego was probably throbbing at the thought of winning the billionaire space race, but there’s a chance he might not actually get to space first. Richard Branson is now planning to get in the sky a few weeks sooner than Jeff Bezos.
It was always my understanding from Hollywood that space travel takes years of research, education, and specific training before you slap on a bubble helmet, a bulky white suit, and make a zero-gravity charcuterie plate with some of that legendary green cheese from the moon. But that’s not really the type of space travel we’re talking about here. On this week’s episode of Dlisted: The Podcast, Michael explained that Jeff Bezos would only be in space for about 11 minutes and that the New Shepard would only be breaking through the Kármán line. The Kármán line lies within the thermosphere and is about 62.3 miles north of the Earth’s sea level. That’s a little under where the aurora borealis happen and is much closer to Earth than where space stations float. So really, all a person needs to get up to the Kármán line is a ship that can make the trip. There is no dramatic slow-motion walk to the launchpad. However, it’s still higher than the standard airline flight, which is about 6 to 8 miles above sea level.
Richard Branson was planning to go into space later in 2021, but he might have just been issued a new boarding pass, and his flight plan got bumped up to about three-and-a-half weeks from now. via Ars Technica:
“We’ve got three test flights left,” [VP of Virgin Galactic government affairs] Sirisha Bandla said. “We’ve got a flight with employees in the cabin. A flight with our founder, Sir Richard Branson, after that, and then to round out our flight test program, we are flying the Italian Air Force.”
However, the Bezos spaceflight scheduled for July 20 may have scrambled those plans. According to a report by Doug Messier on his Parabolic Arc website, “Virgin Galactic is working on a plan to send Branson on a suborbital flight aboard the VSS Unity SpaceShipTwo rocket plane over the July 4 holiday weekend.”
It sounds like Virgin Galactic was already planning that July 4th flight. So it’s not like Richard Branson is out there on the tarmac, duct-taping cardboard panels to a ship that wasn’t scheduled to be finished until Thanksgiving, screaming, “Get it in the sky with birthday party balloons, bottle rockets, strap a large bird to it if you have to, but do it NOW!”
Ars Technica reached out to Virgin Galactic for confirmation of this reported flight, but they would only say they’re still analyzing data from a successful flight on May 22nd, and that they have not determined the date of their next flight. Because Richard Branson loves publicity and attention, he’s probably jumping at the chance to beat Bezos to space.
As for how all these billionaires can easily afford a trip to space, they don’t pay taxes (allegedly)! According to Market Watch, a recent report from ProPublica that shows alleged data collected from the Internal Revenue Service claims that certain billionaires didn’t exactly hand much over to Uncle Sam this year, or ever, really. Bernie Sanders couldn’t be more shocked if he found a squirrel living in his mittens.
Billionaires including Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Tesla co-founder Elon Musk and media titan Michael Bloomberg have avoided paying federal income tax in some years, according to a report from ProPublica, which cited a trove of Internal Revenue Service data.
Warren Buffett, the chief executive and chairman of Berkshire Hathaway has avoided the most tax, according to the ProPublica trove, paying a tax rate of 0.1% on the $24.3 billion in wealth he accumulated between 2014 and 2018. (Taxes are assessed on income, rather than wealth, it should be noted.)
ProPublica wouldn’t disclose how they got this information, as it’s illegal for the IRS to just hand out people’s personal income tax returns. Market Watch reached out to reps for Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Michael Bloomberg, and Warren Buffett, and reps for all claimed they paid the taxes they were required to pay. Why go to space, when you can have just as much fun flying through tax loopholes?
But is this why all these billionaires want to get to space so badly? Are they planning to stash all their cash in an off-planet bank account? I guess we’ll have to wait for the people who released the Panama Papers to one day release the Jupiter Records to find out.