Game on'Sir Richard Branson will attempt to go to space on July 11

Virgin Galactic announced Thursday afternoon that Sir Richard Branson (British billionaire) will be attempting to launch the company into space.The "Unity 22" mission will be flown on the VSS Unity spacecraft by a crew of four mission specialists and two pilots, Dave Mackay (pilot) and Michael Masucci (mission specialist), according to Branson. The company released a statement saying that Unity 22 would focus on customer experience and cabin design, building on the company's May spaceflight.Branson stated:My belief is that space belongs for all... Virgin Galactic has been innovating commercial space industries for over 16 years. This industry will open up space to humanity and make the world a better place. It is one thing to dream of space being more accessible for all, but it's quite another to be able to work with an amazing team to make that dream a reality. It's an honor to be part of such a talented team of mission specialists.This flight's timing is crucial, as Branson would be able to beat Amazon founder Jeff Bezos into space on July 11. Bezos stated that he will fly the first human flight on the New Shepard spacecraft. It was developed and tested at Blue Origin rocket company. This mission will take place on July 20.Thursday was a memorable day for Blue Origin and Bezos. Wally Funk was invited to join Bezos aboard the New Shepard flight. Funk, who is now 82, was a member of the privately funded program "Mercury 13", which provided support for women who were not chosen to fly into space in 1960s. Funk is regarded as someone who deserves to be in space.AdvertisementVirgin Galactic's announcement will be more significant than this for Bezos as it advances the "battle between the billionaires" to see which one will get into space first.Branson clearly wants to be the first. Virgin Galactic has modified its flight plans to accommodate Branson's request. The company originally planned to conduct a test flight in which four employees would be in the passenger compartment. Branson's mission was to follow that test.There will be questions about Branson's and Virgin Galactic's rushing of things. Wayne Hale, a former flight director and manager of the space shuttle program, tweeted: "Talk about schedule pressure!" We hope nobody is compromising.It is possible that Virgin Galactic's May 22 flight went smoothly, so the VSS Unity spacecraft could be ready for use again in early July. Between the VSS Unity's first spaceflight (December 13, 2018), and its second flight (February 22, 2019,) only a little over two months elapsed. The turnaround time would take approximately 1.5 months.If Richard Branson can get to space before July 20, which seems probable, he will beat Jeff Bezos in both launching cargo into orbit with his Virgin Orbit rocket company and also flying to space himself, even though he started four years later and spent a fraction of the cost.Bezos may argue that Branson is not actually going to space. The boundary between Earth's atmosphere, the cosmos and its surrounding space is a matter of dispute within the space community. It was long held that the boundary of Earth's atmosphere and cosmos began at 100 km. This line is known as Krmn. In recent years, however, some have come to the conclusion that space starts lower and attitudes are changing. Branson will likely fly over 80 km in VSS Unity, while New Shepard will comfortably travel more than 100 km before returning to Earth.