Billionaire Space Race: Branson VS. Bezos

Yahoo Finance’s Adam Shapiro joins the Yahoo Finance live panel to discuss the latest news as Sir Richard Branson enters the space race.

Video transcript

ZACK GUZMAN: Virgin Galactic’s Sir Richard Branson rushed to beat him by just nine days. And for more on this billionaire space race, Adam Shapiro of Yahoo Finance joins us with what looks like an all-time shot, Adam.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Yeah, a hit, but you could hold your breath, Zack, longer than Sir Richard Branson and the folks joining him on Unity, the Unity 22 test flight, when they go into suborbit on July 11. It will actually – are you ready for this – a 20 second flight. Now, what’s important is that this will be the first time that it will carry a full crew and two pilots, as well as four mission specialists in the cabin. And one of those specialists will be the founder of Virgin Galactic, Sir Richard Branson. They just got FAA approval to launch into sub-orbit last week. So they have the right to brag because it’s a race against the tourism industry.

And the July 11 launch will be Jeff Bezos, who, by the way, today is his last full day as CEO of Amazon, right? He’s, I guess, celebrating that with an orbit, or sub-orbit, vacation aboard the Blue Origin rocket on the 20th. So Sir Richard gets to say that we did the first tourist-style space flight, even though. he is in sub-orbit. It would still be pretty cool. If you’ve got a quarter of a million dollars, Virgin Galactic might be the way to go. They are going to test a few things. But for Branson, he says it’s all about the astronaut experience. So let’s keep our fingers crossed, July 11 is on.

AKIKO FUJITA: What does that ultimately mean, Adam, other than bragging rights? I mean, at your point, we’re talking about space tourism here. Some might argue that SpaceX has much bigger ambitions at stake. But really, from a business standpoint, from a hardware standpoint, how important is it for them to claim the former?

ADAM SHAPIRO: That’s a great question since they have different business plans. I mean, you can tell we were the – it’s not the first space tourism. I mean, the Russians threw people into space. But the situation for Virgin Galactic is, remember, we had this discussion with them before the pandemic, that what they’re really trying to develop is the ability to go from New York to Tokyo, you know, by the suborbital route. You’ve reduced the flight time to just a few hours. So that’s their business plan, at least in part.

Whereas with Blue Origin, they work with NASA. There’s a whole lot of preparatory work to go to some sort of orbiting lunar station, and then from that lunar station, to descend to the moon. These are therefore two different business models, even though they both speak of space tourism. One works with the NASA business model. It would be the Blue Origin path. And then you have Virgin Galactic, which right now is the pure tourism route.

ZACK GUZMAN: It’s interesting and quite funny to also think about the fact that they are doing this – Richard Branson goes into space – before the official launch of their cruise line that they have been working on for so long. Virgin Voyages is delayed due to the pandemic. Who would have thought Richard Branson would have been to space before this happened? But Adam Shapiro, we’ll watch. It’s going to be very interesting to see how the battle unfolds.

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