"Before the end of the year I hope to be sitting in a Virgin Galactic spaceship, going to space," Branson told David Rubenstein in an interview for Bloomberg.
"Space is tough -- it is rocket science," he continued, alluding to the company's troubled launch history.
Charting a course to space has not been easy, with a test flight crashing in the Mojave Desert in 2014, killing one pilot and seriously injuring another. In May, a series of successful test flights put Virgin Galactic back on track -- but can it really get to space before the end of the year?
Branson's claims should be taken with a mighty grain of salt. He has made similar declarations throughout the life of Virgin Galactic's service and come up short. In 2007, he believed his spacecraft would take its maiden flight within 18 months. In October last year, he again suggested that spaceflight was only months away. After 14 years and one catastrophic failure, there's reason to be skeptical of this updated timeline.
Virgin Galactic was founded in 2004 as the world's first commercial spaceline. Since its inception some 800 customers have signed up, and paid up, to go to space on their spacecraft at the very tidy price of $250,000 per (return) ticket.
There was an era where Virgin Galactic was the only company trying to send people off planet, but with the Jeff Bezos-owned Blue Origin sending their New Shepard rocket farther than ever before on July 18, the space tourism race is well and truly on. Who will be the first to rocket everyday (very rich) humans to space?
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