Entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson says he is in training to be an astronaut and his first trip to space could be in “months not years”.
Talking on BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours programme multi-millionaire Branson said that he was close to achieving his long-held ambition of space travel.
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“We’re talking about months away, not years away – so it’s close. There are exciting times ahead.”
The 67-year old said he was in a serious training regime to prepare his body for the experience.
“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.
“If you’re going to really enjoy the experience, the fitter you can be the better.
“Instead of doing one set of tennis every morning and every evening, I’m doing two sets. I’m going kiting and biking – doing whatever it takes to make me as fit as possible.”
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Branson’s company, Virgin Galactic, has successfully tested a spaceship called Unity which in April underwent its first supersonic, rocket-powered flight.
It was carried by its mothership and released over California’s Mojave Desert. The spacecraft then achieved supersonic speed before pilots shut down the engine and it returned to Mojave Air and Space Port.
It was a big milestone for the firm as it marked Virgin Galactic’s first powered flight since the 2014 crash of its original spaceship, where one of its two pilots died.
Branson is not the only entrepreneur dreaming of space travel.
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Tesla boss Elon Musk and Amazon owner Jeff Bezos are both also working on their own space plans.
Musk’s company SpaceX successfully launched its Falcon 9 rocket into space earlier this month from Florida’s Cape Canaveral.
Bezos meanwhile has used funds from selling Amazon shares to back his space company Blue Origin.
Branson said he thought Bezos was his main challenger in being the first to offer commercial space travel.
“I think we’re both neck and neck as to who will put people into space first,” he said.
“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.”