Branson told BBC Radio 4 over the weekend that he is undertaking a variety of training, including astronaut training, fitness training, and centrifuge, so that his body “will hopefully cope well.” As part of his training, he’s doubling his tennis playing to four sets a day. Branson reportedly hopes to become an astronaut with his company Virgin Galactic within 12 months.
Discussing who will get there first, Branson told the BBC that he and Bezos are “neck and neck as to who will put people into space first.” But, he added, they “have to do it safely,” calling it a “race with ourselves” to ensure that they each build a shuttle that is safe enough to send people to space.
Branson added that commercial space travel is “months away, not years away,” noting that “there are exciting times ahead.”
Bezos, meanwhile, hopes to start offering suborbital space tourism flights by 2019. Calling his work with his space company Blue Origin “the most important work” he’s doing at the Space Development Conference last week, Bezos also highlighted a need to focus on the moon as a place for eventual settlement.
“In the not-too-distant future—I’m talking decades, maybe 100 years, it’ll start to be easier to do a lot of the things that we currently do on Earth in space, because we’ll have so much energy,” Bezos told the audience. “We will have to leave this planet. We’re going to leave it, and it’s going to make this planet better.”
Bezos claimed that “this is not something that we may choose to do; this is something we must do,” calling the alternative “stasis.”
Despite his lofty ambitions, however, Bezos did concede that the exploration and eventual settlement of the moon “won’t be done by one company.” He noted a desire to collaborate with NASA or the European space agency, but said it will ultimately require “thousands of companies working in concert over many decades.”