Elon Musk made history earlier this month when his Falcon Heavy megarocket launched from Cape Canaveral, carrying Musk’s cherry red Tesla Roadster on a journey to Mars.
And apparently the legendary feat has made another billionaire mogul a tad bit ‘jealous.’
Richard Branson told CNN in an interview on Wednesday that he’s envious of Musk’s successful launch but that his space company Virgin Galactic would be planning its own mission soon.
In an interview with CNN on Wednesday, Richard Branson said: ‘Elon [Musk] and his team are extraordinary at what they achieved,’ referring to this month’s historic Falcon Heavy launch
‘I was a little bit jealous,’ Branson told CNN. ‘I mean Elon and his team are extraordinary at what they achieved.’
‘They all just did fantastic,’ he added.
The Falcon Heavy launch on Feb. 6 marked the maiden flight of what’s now the most powerful operational rocket in the world.
The journey to Mars orbit will take about six months, with the module and the attached Roadster traversing roughly 140 million miles (225 million kilometres).
But Branson said Virgin Galactic won’t be standing still and, in fact, has some big plans in store for later this year.
‘Watch this space,’ Branson said. ‘We will be coming, hopefully, out with something very exciting over the next few months.’
He added that he expects Virgin Galactic to have a spacecraft in space in the next few months.
‘If it’s not in space with people in the next few months, I would be very disappointed,’ Branson added.
VSS Unity (pictured during a test flight in August) is designed to take customers into space via suborbital rocket flight, and could begin commercial flights as early as next year
HOW IS VIRGIN GALACTIC HEATING UP THE SPACE RACE?
Virgin Galactic successfully tested its VSS Unity spacecraft last August.
It involved a glide test flight of its VSS Unity spaceplane, the company’s second version of SpaceShipTwo.
The test flight saw a plane, dubbed VSS Unity, sent up from California’s Mojave Air and Space Port, attached to a twin-fuselage White Knight carrier airplane.
Once the two aircrafts had reached the desired altitude, VSS Unity was released for an unpowered descent back to the space port.
VSS Unity had 450 litres of water loaded into its tank, which was dumped from the plane – as fuel would be in a real flight.
By jettisoning water on descent, Virgin Galactic was able to confirm handling characteristcs as the vehicle’s centre of gravity changes.
Virgin Galactic hopes to send tourists into space aboard the firm’s VSS Unity spaceplane by the end of 2018.
So far, over 700 customers have reserved a spot on one of the suborbital trips at a cost of $250,000 (£200,000) per rider.
Celebrities including Brad Pitt, Katy Perry and Ashton Kutcher have already signed up.
Virgin Galactic is competing head-to-head with SpaceX, as well as Blue Origin, the space venture launched by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, in the commercial space race.
Blue Origin has successfully tested its New Shepard rocket in 2016 and hopes to be able to conduct human flights by mid-2018 or 2019.
Branson said he hopes Virgin Galactic will be the first of the three companies to get to space, however.
Richard Branson rolled out his new SpaceShip Two VSS Unity in 2016. The event came two years after the SpaceShipTwo split into pieces in a catastrophic crash in the Mojave Desert
‘I’d hope that Virgin Galactic will be the first of the three entrepreneurs fighting to put people into space to get there,’ Branson explained. ‘That’s our aim.’
He added that firm has 800 engineers ‘working diligently’ on the project and making sure that it’s safe.
‘We’ll wait for their word before we put anybody up,’ Branson said.
He has good a reason to make sure Virgin Galactic’s next mission is completely secure.
In 2014, Virgin Galactic experienced a catastrophic crash that killed one pilot and injured another.
Richard Branson has admitted that he doesn’t expect Virgin Galactic will make it to Mars before Elon Musk’s (pictured) SpaceX, which has said it hopes to reach the red planet by 2022
The SpaceShipTwo, which was a plane designed to be the first ever to carry passengers into space, split into pieces as it fell over California’s Mojave Desert.
It took two years for the company to regain approval from the US Federal Aviation Administration to fly SpaceShipTwo again.
The Falcon Heavy launch on Feb. 6 marked the maiden flight of what’s now the most powerful operational rocket in the world
In the meantime, SpaceX has made some serious strides in its goal to get to Mars, which is something Branson has conceded that Musk will achieve first.
‘I’m not as passionate about Mars as Elon is. 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.’
Musk hopes to land his first rockets on Mars by 2022 with SpaceX.
For now, the only passenger that Musk is sending to space is the dummy sitting in the driver’s seat of his Tesla Roadster, dubbed Starman.
Starman is on a 250-million mile journey that will be taking him in a solar orbit with a high point just beyond Mars, as initially predicted by SpaceX.
Musk said the ‘silly and fun’ mission was a success because it will ‘get people excited around the world’, although the rocket’s central booster failed to return to Earth as planned.
Still Branson acknowledged that Musk’s stunt of sending his Tesla Roadster into space is one that will be hard for Virgin Galactic to top, once the firm finalizes its plans for sending a spacecraft into orbit.
‘We’re already thinking about what we can do to upstage that one,’ Branson said.