News

Richard Branson Responds To Backlash About Spending His Massive Fortune On Space Travel

After the billionaire’s recent trip to the stars, many criticized him for spending money on space instead of more pressing issues like the climate crisis, poverty, or the COVID-19 pandemic.

Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson floats in zero gravity while on his trip to space on July 11, 2021. | Virgin Galactic
Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson floats in zero gravity while on his trip to space on July 11, 2021. | Virgin Galactic

Richard Branson beat out other ultra-rich billionaires in the race to space this week, but many down on Earth weren’t happy that he chose to invest his massive fortune in a trip to the edge of the atmosphere. 

The Virgin Galactic founder and billionaire responded to critics in an interview with NBC’s “TODAY” on Wednesday, saying he agrees with those who felt he could have allocated his funds in more useful ways. Host Hoda Kotb asked Branson about his thoughts on the backlash from people who’ve said he “went up into space for kind of a joy ride” amid crises requiring more immediate attention like the pandemic, climate change, and poverty.

“I 100% agree that people who are in positions of wealth should spend most of their money, 90% or more of their money, trying to tackle these issues, but we should also create new industries that can create, you know, 800 engineers, and scientists who can create wonderful things that can make space accessible at a fraction of the environmental cost that it's been in the past,” Branson said.

Branson became one of the first civilian “tourists” to cross the border into space on Sunday with crew members and Virgin Galactic colleagues Beth Moses, Colin Bennett, and Sirisha Bandla, along with pilots Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci, on a spaceship his company funded. Branson told “TODAY” that the flight was “17 years in the making.” 

Branson and his crew flew more than 53 miles above Earth’s surface and video shows them enjoying zero gravity for a few minutes before they had to return to the planet. He said in his Wednesday interview that scientists managed to reduce the environmental cost of the space flight to the rough equivalent of an international, round-trip airplane ride on Earth. While Branson’s trip may have been historic, many people were less-than-impressed with his trip. Critics online called out Branson who, according to Forbes is worth an estimated $5.1 billion for partaking in what seems like an unnecessary race to space:

Branson’s launch into space beat out fellow billionaires Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos who are in the process of crafting their own casual space travel narratives. Bezos is set to go on his own trip to space on July 20 with his company Blue Origin. The three moguls are all hoping to make space travel accessible for other super-rich people who wish to see the stars.

According to Space.com, a seat on one of Virgin Galactic’s trips to the top of the atmosphere will cost around $250,000.

Our Newsletter
NowThis in Your Inbox
Informative and inspiring stories delivered straight to you
By Signing Up, I Agree to the Terms and Privacy Policy.