Richard Branson thanks Elon Musk for being 'typically supportive' as he counts ...

Richard Branson thanks Elon Musk for being 'typically supportive' as he counts ...
Richard Branson thanks Elon Musk for being 'typically supportive' as he counts ...

Sir Richard Branson has thanked Elon Musk for being 'typically supportive' as the Virgin Galactic boss counts down the hours to becoming world's first billionaire to blast into space on Sunday's historic flight. 

The British billionaire, 70, will fly to the edge of space - nine days before 'rival' Jeff Bezos - on a craft built by his own company after declaring it is 'time to turn my dream into reality'.

Branson will travel on VSS Unity, which will launch from mothership VMS Eve on July 11, with a live stream of the event starting at 14:00 BST (09:00 ET) from Spaceport America in New Mexico.  

He had tweeted a countdown to the lift-off before fellow entrepreneur Musk, 50, commented: 'Will see you there to wish you the best.'  

Sir Richard soon posted a light-hearted reply that read: 'Thanks for being so typically supportive and such a good friend, Elon. Great to be opening up space for all - safe travels and see you at Spaceport America!' 

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Sir Richard, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are all part of what is being dubbed the 'NewSpace' set.

The group have all said that they were inspired by the first moon landing in 1969, when the US beat the Soviet Union in the space race, and had previously said how much it would mean for each to win the 'new space race'.

Amazon founder Bezos had looked set to be the first of the three to fly to space - having announced plans to launch aboard his space company Blue Origin's New Shepard spacecraft on July 20.  

But Branson later revealed his suborbital flight was planned nine days before Bezos.

Although SpaceX and Tesla founder Musk has said he wants to go into space, and even 'die on Mars', he has not said when he might blast into orbit. 

SpaceX appears to be leading the way in the broader billionaire space race with numerous launches carrying NASA equipment to the ISS and partnerships to send tourists to space by 2021.  

Virgin Galactic's Richard Branson

Fellow entrepreneur Elon Musk

Sir Richard Branson (left) has thanked Elon Musk (right) for being 'typically supportive' as the Virgin Galactic boss counts down the hours to becoming world's first billionaire to blast into space on Sunday's historic flight 

Branson had initially tweeted a countdown to the lift-off before fellow entrepreneur Musk, 50, commented: 'Will see you there to wish you the best'

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Branson had initially tweeted a countdown to the lift-off before fellow entrepreneur Musk, 50, commented: 'Will see you there to wish you the best'

The who's who of the 'mega-rich space race' 

Sir Richard Branson

Sir Richard was the first to take steps towards commercial spaceflights, founding Virgin Galactic in 2004, and initially intended to launch a private spacecraft by 2009 before delays scuppered his plans.

He is now hoping to be the first billionaire into space with his flight on July 11 aboard the VSS Unity spacecraft – the first time Virgin Galactic has launched a fully crewed flight to the edge of space.

It comes after a number of setbacks for Virgin Galactic including the death of a pilot aboard the VSS Enterprise during a test flight which broke up and crashed in the Mojave Desert in October 2014.

Sunday's flight will be the 22nd launch by Virgin Galactic.

Sir Richard announced the flight shortly after Jeff Bezos announced his planned launch on June 20, but denied he is trying to beat his fellow billionaire.

There will be two pilots and four mission specialists including Sir Richard aboard the Unity, which will be carried by the twin-fuselage carrier jet VMS Eve to 50,000ft and will then propel itself upwards where the passengers will experience zero gravity.

Sir Richard got his start in business by using Student, a magazine he founded in 1968, as a springboard to launch a mail-order record company which led him to start Virgin Records, his first major venture.

He used the success of Virgin Records to launch into a number of industries with Virgin branding, including an airline, gyms, publishing and an ill-fated cola brand.

Sir Richard now has a net worth of £4 billion.

Jeff Bezos

Jeff Bezos's company Blue Origin was founded in 2000 and he used a 1982 interview with the Miami Herald to show his interest in humanity leaving Earth.

Blue Origin is slated to launch its reusable New Shepard rocket on July 20 carrying Mr Bezos, his brother Mark, a mystery passenger who paid £20 million at auction, and Wally Funk, a female astronaut trained in 1961 but who never went to space.

She will become the oldest person to reach space if the flight is successful.

The New Shepard has a conventional launch method involving a booster rocket taking off vertically and then separating from the capsule at a suborbital height.

The rocket has no crew and is autonomous, unlike Mr Bezos' rivals' spacecraft.

He is the founder and former chief executive of Amazon, the world's largest online retailer.

He founded Amazon as an online bookstore before branching out into consumer goods in 1998. He is also owner of Blue Origin and the Washington Post.

His net worth is currently £154 billion.

Elon Musk

The South African owner of Tesla has become well known for his efforts to ignite space travel.

His greatest contribution so far is the creation of reusable booster rockets through SpaceX.

Mr Musk was the first to announce a fully private spaceflight in February and will attempt the launch in the autumn.

Space tourism is a secondary concern for SpaceX which primarily wants to colonise Mars, with Mr Musk saying he wants to die on the Red Planet.

SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft will feature a four-person crew led by Jason Isaacman, the founder of Shift4 Payments, an online payment company.

The Dragon will take off from Nasa's Kennedy Space Centre at Cape Canaveral which SpaceX has been using for launches since 2017.

Mr Musk is best known for being the eccentric chief executive of Tesla, the electric car company, but made his fortune by founding PayPal.

He has become a leading proponent of cryptocurrency, even accepting payment for Tesla cars in Bitcoin for a period earlier this year.

He has a net worth of £129 billion. 

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The exchange comes as Branson revealed how it had been his dream to go to space ever since seeing the moon landing as a youngster before adding that he now wanted to inspire a new generation. 

In the clip posted online earlier today he explained: 'The moon landing was a catalytic moment for me. I remember my dad taking me outside onto the village green and we just looked up at the moon. 

'I really did think that myself and many other young people would one day be able to go into space. I waited and I waited for that opportunity and it never came but it got me thinking. 

'I went to the registry office and I registered the name Virgin Galactic Airways.' 

Following a montage of behind the scenes footage Sir Richard continued: 'I think in the same way I was inspired by the moon landing, I really hope that there will be millions of kids all over the world that will be captivated and inspired about the possibility of them going to space one day.'   

Sir Richard's extraordinary trip is one week before his 71st birthday, and he will be joined by five others on what has been dubbed the Unit 22 test flight - as it is the 22nd test flight for the spaceplane. 

The British billionaire will launch on the first of the three test flights carrying a full complement of 'astronauts' in the cabin, before they begin flying the first of 600 'future astronaut' ticket holders in 2022. 

Branson is Astronaut 001 and will travel with Chief Astronaut Beth Moses (Astronaut 002), Lead Operations Engineer Colin Bennett (Astronaut 003) and VP of Government Affairs Sirisha Bandla (Astronaut 004) in the cabin.

It comes after Sir Richard's daughter Holly says she 'hasn't left dad's side' for days as she eagerly anticipates his blast off into space aboard Sunday's historic Virgin Galactic flight. 

The 39-year-old, an executive at Virgin, reflected on her father's love of exploration in a tweet posted one day before lift-off.  

She wrote: 'I haven't left Dad's side the last few days! It's bringing back so many memories of his ballooning adventures when I would follow him around like a puppy for weeks before a trip! Now I'm doing it all over again, and Etta is doing the same!' 

Holly is the eldest child of Richard Branson and his wife Joan. The University College London graduate worked as a junior doctor for Britain's National Health Service before joining the Virgin Group in 2008.  

Meanwhile, Amazon and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos will launch to the edge of space on the New Shepherd rocket on July 20 - the 52nd anniversary of the first moon landing. 

Branson denied that he and Bezos were in a 'battle of the billionaire space founders' to see who would go up first, despite changing from the second to the first VSS Unity test flight in order to go up before Bezos.

'I just wish him and people going up with him all the very best,' he said, adding he 'looks forward to talking to him about his ride when he comes back.'  

Joining the Virgin Galactic staff filling the cabin, pilots Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci will fly VSS Unity, and CJ Sturckow and Kelly Latimer will fly VMS Eve.

Once it reaches 50,000 feet the carrier plane releases Unity, a reusable, winged spacecraft designed to carry six passengers and two pilots into space. 

Once released Unity's rocket motor engages 'within seconds', according to Virgin Galactic.

The craft will then fly approximately three and a half times the speed of sound (2,600mph/4,300kph) into suborbital space, reaching up to 360,890ft (110,000 metres) above the Earth's surface.

'I've always been a dreamer. My mum taught me to never give up and to reach for the stars,' said Branson.

There are dozens of 'founder astronauts' who purchased a ticket to travel to space in the first years after the firm was formed who will be at the launch on Sunday. 

Among them is Namira Salim, who hopes to launch early next year. She has been waiting 15 years to launch, and become the first person from Pakistan in space.

Salim has been an active ambassador for space as the new frontier for peace, and says she can't wait to watch the launch on Sunday, and then go up herself. 

Branson said he was going into space to 'test the customer experience' from start to finish, to ensure that those paying to go up get the best possible experience. 

It will be the fourth crewed flight of VSS Unity and only the second to include passengers in the cabin. The first saw Beth Moses go up in February 2019.

Sir Richard will fly to the edge of space on a spaceplane built by his own company after declaring it is 'time to turn my dream into reality'. Pictured: Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity, piloted by CJ Sturckow and Dave Mackay, is released from mothership VMS Eve

Sir Richard will fly to the edge of space on a spaceplane built by his own company after declaring it is 'time to turn my dream into reality'. Pictured: Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity, piloted by CJ Sturckow and Dave Mackay, is released from mothership VMS Eve

Holly Branson, a 39-year-old executive at Virgin, reflected on her father's love of exploration in a tweet posted one day before lift-off

Holly Branson, a 39-year-old executive at Virgin, reflected on her father's love of exploration in a tweet posted one day before lift-off

The news that Branson would go up on this flight came soon after the FCC granted Virgin Galactic a change to their operator license that allowed them to take paying travelers up to the edge of space.

'After a successful flight in late May and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval for a Full Commercial Launch License, the pathway towards commercial launch is clear,' Branson said. 

'Virgin Galactic still has tests to come, and this is the time for me to assess the astronaut experience. 

'When we return, I will announce something very exciting to give more people the chance to become an astronaut. Because space belongs to us all. So watch this space,' said Branson in a blog post before the launch.' 

Sir Richard moved his trip to space to an earlier test flight after Jeff Bezos announced he was going up, but claims no rivalry, saying 'we both wished each other well'

Sir Richard moved his trip to space to an earlier test flight after Jeff Bezos announced he was going up, but claims no rivalry, saying 'we both wished each other well'

He will travel to space on VSS Unity on Sunday July 11, with a live stream of the event starting at 14:00 BST (09:00 ET) from Spaceport America in New Mexico

He will travel to space on VSS Unity on Sunday July 11, with a live stream of the event starting at 14:00 BST (09:00 ET) from Spaceport America in New Mexico

He will travel on VSS Unity, which will launch from mothership VMS Eve on Sunday July 11, with a live stream of the event starting at 14:00 BST (09:00 ET) from Spaceport America in New Mexico. Unity is seen here attached to Eve

He will travel on VSS Unity, which will launch from

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