After over a decade in development, Virgin Galactic, a private space travel service founded by billionaire Richard Branson, is almost ready to enter orbit. “We are hopefully about three months before we are in space, maybe six months before I’m in space,” said Branson at the Nordic Business Forum in Helsinki, Finland. If accurate, this moment for Virgin Galactic represents a culmination of years of hard work and setbacks, which included a fatal crash, delays, and technical problems. Branson’s Virgin Galactic is one of several companies, including Elon Musk’s SpaceX, in a high-stakes race to establish a private space travel service in the near future.

Continue reading below
Our Featured Videos

Virgin Galactic, Richard Branson, space travel

Although Branson is reaching for the stars, he’s declined to reach as far as Mars. That’s Tesla territory. “I’m not as passionate about Mars as Elon [Musk] is,” said Branson. “My love for space is about how much it can do for people back here on earth, and that’s what Virgin Galactic is pushing towards.” As part of his SpaceX program, Musk plans to land rockets on Mars by 2022, in preparation for manned missions to the red planet. “[Getting to Mars] is an incredible challenge, and I suspect Elon [Musk] will get there first,” said Branson. “He’s more interested in big rockets going big distances. We’ve been more interested in taking people to space, and satellites, slightly closer to Earth.”

Related: Richard Branson’s new supersonic jet will fly 2X faster than the speed of sound

Earlier in 2017, Branson promised that Virgin Galactic would be bringing passengers into outer space by the end of 2018. Tickets to boldly go where few have gone before will not be cheap; each ride is expected to cost $250,000 per traveler. In addition to providing access to the wonder of space travel, the Virgin Galactic service will provide city to city travel across the world. “To get to space we’re going to be flying a craft that’s going 3000 miles per hour,” said Branson. “We are going to be the only people in the world, in a few months, to be flying a craft that’s going 3000 [mph]. Taking that craft and looking at point to point travel is something we are going to be in the best position in the world to do.”

Virgin Galactic, Richard Branson, space travel

Via Business Insider

Images via Roderick Eime (1) and Land Rover