The term "space race" came about in the late 1950s and early 1960s, when the USA and the USSR were locked in a heated contest to see who could conquer space (or at least the moon) first. Now, we have a space race of our own, but rather than being between rival nations it's between rival billionaires. And according to a recent interview with one of those billionaires, the state of the race is "neck and neck" between Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos. It was the former who told the BBC's Yours and Yours radio program his opinion on how his efforts to successfully bring travelers into space compares to Bezos' own efforts:
"I think we're both neck and neck as to who will put people into space first… Ultimately, we have to do it safely. It's more a race with ourselves to make sure we have the craft that are safe to put people up there."
He put an even finer point on the conversation than that, telling the interviewer his own first trip into space is "months away, not years away." And the founder of Virgin Galactic, who's been investing in space travel going back to 2004, isn't about to be caught unprepared when it comes time to blast off:
"I'm going for astronaut training; I'm going for fitness training, centrifuge and other training, so that my body will hopefully cope well when I go to space."
Obviously, if Branson is right and his first journey into space is that soon in the future, this leg of the billionaire space race will reach the finish line fairly soon as well. For his part, Bezos hasn't responded publicly to Branson's claim, so we'll all just have to keep our eyes on the skies and see how everything turns out.