Elon Musk vs Richard Branson in space travel – who would’ve thought that we’d end up here?
Neil Armstrong’s moon landing inspired many to want to venture into space. However, not everyone is as resourceful and privileged as billionaires Elon Musk and Richard Branson. The two are currently heavily invested in what can best be described as “space wars” but who is currently in the driver’s seat? Let’s find out!
Elon Musk – SpaceX
The founder of Tesla, Elon Musk, created SpaceX in 2002, with the vision to enable humans to build a civilization on Mars. The company develops and manufactures rockets and spacecraft to help fulfill this vision. Elon Musk truly believes humans can thrive on multiple planets, and the way to prove it is by making space travel accessible and affordable.
So far, he seems to be progressing gradually but inevitably towards achieving his destination. In 2008, SpaceX’s Falcon-I became the first privately developed spacecraft to orbit the Earth, which is by no means a small feat. In fact, NASA not only acknowledged the achievement but also awarded SpaceX a contract to transport crew and cargo to the International Space Station.
SpaceX is also the first commercial space company to:
- Launch and recover a spacecraft from orbit
- Attach a commercial craft to ISS
- Land an orbital-class rocket booster
SpaceX are true pioneers in the field of space travel. The company developed and mastered reusable rockets and spacecraft, drastically reducing the cost associated with space travel. His future plans, though, sound incredibly ambitious.
In an interview, Musk claimed that there is a 70% chance that he will live to ride one of his space rockets to Mars. He further elaborated upon his statement, claiming to know exactly what he is talking about. Musk states that he does not only mean touch and come back. He means that he’ll be packing his bags and shifting to a huge mansion on the red planet, and he plans to achieve this dream by 2026.
Richard Branson – Virgin Galactic
Richard Branson established Virgin Galactic in 2004. He was inspired by Neil Armstrong’s landing on the moon and wanted to alleviate the frustration that arose due to a shortage of funds halting much of the innovation at NASA. He decided to step up and fill in the gaps.
Branson comes across as someone who just really wants to go to space, and Virgin Galactic’s mission somewhat reflects that. However, the 2014 crash of VSS enterprise was a significant setback. It wasn’t until Dec 2018 that Virgin Galactic was able to achieve its first space flight.
Spaceship Unity achieved this critical milestone for the company. However, it did not reach anywhere near the edge of space and covered only 55.8 miles instead of the desired 62 miles. In 2009, Branson announced that his company would be the first to take people to space, and he seems pretty close to achieving that.
Currently, Virgin Galactic aims to send six passengers accompanied by two crew members to the edge of space. The ship will cover travel to about 62 miles above the Earth through two aircrafts White Knight Two and VSS Unity. White Knight will carry Unity up until 50,000 ft, and there the two will separate. Unity will then fire a rocket engine, propelling the sip into space at a speed of 2,845 mph.
It is expected to reach a height of 110 km, at which the passengers will experience around 5 minutes of “space” before gliding back to Earth. The experience of a lifetime for many does come with a price tag that not many can afford. The trip is set to cost $250,000, and Richard Branson and Justin Bieber are going to be two of the first passengers.
Ambitious Billionaires and their Dreams
Elon Musk and Richard Branson can both best be described as visionary individuals. Their ambition is not only reflected in their pursuit of space exploration but also in their other endeavors.
Musk wants to invest in a project called Hyperloop that will allow people to travel as fast as the speed of sound. This transport system will consist of tubes that will allow for incredibly fast transportation. Through the Hyperloop, people will be able to travel to LA to San Francisco in just 30 minutes, reducing the journey time to 1/3rd of what it is by plane.
Similarly, Branson wants to invent a rocket plane that can allow for intercity and inter-country travel via space. His vision is to reduce the travel time from Sydney to New York to 30 minutes. Just to show you how much of a reduction that is, this flight currently takes almost 21 hours.
While both entrepreneurs have made cameo appearances in Superhero movies, can they both backup their superhuman claims at the given deadlines? Elon Musk may find it exceptionally difficult – what with him claiming to settle on Mars by 2026. However, one thing is for sure; we’re in for some exciting times ahead!
Who Is Leading?
There is no clear winner as of yet. Both companies have different lofty goals for the future. However, if we were to make a decision based on past performance and track record, SpaceX seems to have an edge. They have clearly mastered the development and manufacturing of rockets – just a side note (because this is worth mentioning); SpaceX’s boosters can now land back on Earth to be reused. This DRASTICALLY reduces the price of space travel. What’s more, their contract with NASA does seem to give them an edge and access to a wide range of resources.
Elon Musk’s vision, though apparently far-fetched, is also one that can peak greater public interest. Whether or not humans can relocate to Mars is debatable, and scientists have a lot for research to do still. But the time and resources at Musk’s disposal make this research possible. And with efficient planning, humans have achieved a lot of what was considered impossible in the past.
Richard Branson, on the other hand, seems to be investing in his childhood dream. His vision to make space exploration accessible to everyone, though praiseworthy, is still pretty exclusive to those who can afford it. It is also not something innovative or new, as astronauts have already been to space.
While it may pique the interest of many, in the Elon Musk vs Richard Branson in space travel battle, Musk seems to have the upper hand in terms of innovation, resources, and success.