The world is witnessing a new space race between billionaires instead of nations.
Three wealthy tycoons are locked in a battle to become the first to take fare-paying passengers into space and beyond.
Virgin Airlines boss Richard Branson considers he is ahead of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Tesla founder Elon Musk.
Each have pumped hundreds of millions of dollars from their vast personal fortunes into their companies developing and in Musk’s case, already flying space craft.
$250,000 for ticket into orbit
Branson has just announced he is ready to test Virgin Galactic within months – with manned recreational space flights to follow.
Tickets are likely to sell for $250,000 for a place on one of his flights – dropping to $40,00 or $50,000 in the future to encourage more people to become astronauts.
“The day is more than tantalisingly close,” he said. “I hope to briefly leave Earth in months not years.
“We will be in space with people not long after that.”
Bezos – the richest man in the world, according to Forbes magazine – is a slow burn.
His Blue Origin space team has tested his Shepherd and Glenn craft several times but is believed to be some way off a successful orbital mission.
Virgin and Blue Origin are selling the chance for a 100 kilometre trip above the Earth where the atmosphere becomes space for just a few minutes of weightlessness. From that height, passengers will see the curvature of the Earth and dark space.
Musk’s SpaceX project is regularly taking payloads up into orbit and plans to make Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa the first fare-paying passenger to orbit the Moon.
“This is my lifelong dream,” Maezawa said. “I choose to go to the Moon.
“I would like to invite six to eight artists from around the world to join me on this mission to the Moon. They will be asked to create something after they return to Earth. These masterpieces will inspire the dreamer within all of us.
“If you should hear from me, please say yes and accept my invitation. Please don’t say no.”
Space tourists on the first recreational flights to the International Space Station paid more than $10 million for an out-of-this-world experience.