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Everything you need to know about Elon Musk and the billionaire space race

Richard Branson and Elon Musk—friends, billionaires and new space race pioneers—spend Sunday morning together ahead of Branson's space flight. (Richard Branson/Twitter)

Elon Musk has a ticket to space. But it's not from his own aerospace venture.


The SpaceX CEO and second richest person in the world has purchased a ticket to space—which retails for $250,000— from fellow billionaire Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic, according to a recent Wall Street Journal report.

Branson made headlines on Sunday, when he became the first person to ride into space aboard a rocket he helped fund, as reported by CNN. His company, Virgin Galactic, is competing with SpaceX and Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin to become the first commercial spaceline. Bezos, the founder of Amazon, is slated to take a similar flight on July 20.

Musk's support extends beyond his ticket purchase. He joined Branson on the morning of the launch, appearing in a photo with bare feet and no hard feelings. "Elon's a friend and maybe I'll travel on one of his ships one day," Branson told London's The Sunday Times.

There is perhaps less collegiality between Branson and Bezos, with Blue Origin pointing out on Twitter that the Virgin Galactic spaceship did not reach the Karman line, 62 miles above sea level, which is the internationally recognized threshold for where space begins. Bezos did however wish Branson "best of luck" on Instagram, ahead of the Virgin Galactic mission.

Meanwhile, it may not be too long before Musk boards his own spaceship.

SpaceX regularly carries astronauts to and from the International Space Station for NASA and is in the process of building spaceships that can reach Mars. But the company's first private flight—which it has dubbed the world's first all-civilian mission—is scheduled to launch in September.

Although it is scheduled to take place months after those of Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin, the SpaceX mission will be a more robust trip, circling the planet for three days rather than only spending a few minutes above the edge of Earth's atmosphere as with Branson and Bezos' flights, as reported by the Verge.

The three flights do have something else in common, however. Each will include a billionaire: Branson, Bezos and—in the case of the SpaceX mission—benefactor and Shift4 Payments founder Jared Isaacman. He will be joined by cancer survivor and physician assistant Hayley Arceneaux, geoscientist and communications specialist Dr. Sian Proctor, and Lockheed Martin employee and U.S. Air Force veteran Christopher Sembroski, who were chosen via an online competition.

The billionaire space race—in which Branson, Bezos and Musk compete for the nascent space tourism industry and acclaim—has drawn criticism from some, including former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich, who says its financial extravagance and environmental impact are inexcusable in a time of widening wealth inequality and worsening climate change.

But Musk is a vocal defender, tweeting on Monday that space inspires hope.

In addition to commercial space travel and its Starship rideshare-to-Mars program, SpaceX is also developing Starlink, a high-speed, low-latency satellite internet service enabled by a constellation of more than 1,700 low Earth satellites. With plans to open a factory in Austin, Starlink could help serve the world's most remote populations—and bring in revenue to help fund the company's other ventures.

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