British Billionaire and the Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson states that he understands why numerous critics have expressed concerns regarding his expenditure on his Sunday flight to the edge of space, with those critics believing the money could have been put towards tackling other issues.
Issues such as climate change, economic inequality, and the global pandemic were some of the issues listed, but Branson addressed those critics during an exclusive interview on Today, alongside Virgin Galactic government affairs vice president Sirisha Bandla.
He stated that he agreed with those who believed “those in a position of wealth” should be spending the majority of said wealth, say 90%, attempting to tackle the pressing issues mentioned.
However, he continued by stating that those same wealthy individuals should be looking at creating brand new industries that can create new jobs for professions such as scientists and engineers, referencing his new space program which aims to make space more accessible for people other than fully trained astronauts.
Branson added that the total environmental cost for a trip to suborbital space with Virgin Galactic is the same as one round trip to London and back on a Virgin Atlantic flight.
Bandla stated in the same interview that she knew instantly that her opportunity to get to space would come through Branson’s program, which he announced back in 2004.
She stated that she was originally dismissed from the traditional astronaut route due to her poor eyesight, and was picked up to work for Virgin Galactic, eventually being on their first flight to the edge of space last weekend.
She also stated that one of the main perks of the program was that travelers on the flight were able to conduct experiments during the flight, claiming that she was able to conduct one herself.
Sunday’s flight saw Branson and Bandla both achieve their lifelong dreams of traveling into space.
The six-person crew blasted off from New Mexico and traveled 53 miles high to the edge of space, with the flight lasting just over an hour, experiencing four minutes of weightlessness.
The crew included both Branson and Bandla, alongside pilots Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci, Virgin Galactic chief astronaut instructor Beth Moses and lead operations engineer Colin Bennett.
Branon’s Sunday flight also saw him successfully beat fellow Billionaire Jeff Bezos into space, who launches his own flight from Texas on July 20th.
Branson believes that the first Virgin Galactic flight will eventually see commercial spaceflights for private customers, charging $250,000 per person for a flight into suborbital space.
Virgin Galactic also plans to open up space travel to citizens who aren’t super-wealthy, with the company announcing fundraising plans to give away two tickets to a Virgin Galactic spaceflight that is due to launch next year.