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Richard Branson's space quest nears its destination

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richard branson (jeff foust flickr)
richard branson (jeff foust flickr)

Richard Branson wants everyone to be able to fly into space, he just needs a vehicle to take them there. Back in 2004, when 64-year-old test pilot Mike Melvill flew the privately-funded SpaceShipOne to the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere, it looked to everyone, including Branson, like commercial space travel was just around the corner. Nine years later, following a spate of setbacks, ballooning costs, and a tragic accident, it looks like Branson’s Virgin Galactic could soon get its spaceship. Wired walks us through the story thus far, from the ill-fated Pan Am Moon Flights Club to Space X’s successful resupply mission to the International Space Station. Despite emerging competition from the likes of Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin, Branson is still confident of Virgin’s position in the nascent commercial spaceflight market. "I may be being naïve," says the billionaire, "but my guess is that we are five or six years ahead of any competitor."