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In brief: Would you love to look down on earth but can't afford the hundreds of thousands of dollars space tourism companies are charging? Virgin Galactic has a solution. Richard Branson's firm is giving away two seats on one of its first commercial spaceflights to lucky winners of a sweepstake.
Billionaire Virgin founder Branson recently beat Jeff Bezos in the race to leave earth by taking part in the Unity 22 mission that evaluated the Virgin Galactic Astronaut Experience, though Blue Origin claims its rival isn't actually reaching space.
From the beginning, New Shepard was designed to fly above the Kármán line so none of our astronauts have an asterisk next to their name. For 96% of the world’s population, space begins 100 km up at the internationally recognized Kármán line. pic.twitter.com/QRoufBIrUJ— Blue Origin (@blueorigin) July 9, 2021
The mission was the first to carry a full crew of two pilots and four mission specialists in the cabin, including Branson, who reportedly got a visit from fellow space-farer Elon Musk at 3 am on the morning of the flight to wish him luck.
Normally these trips cost $250,000. That places them out of the reach of most people, but Branson has announced a sweepstake in partnership with fundraising platform Omaze that will see two tickets—for a winner and guest—given away.
While entry is free, a donation to the non-profit Space for Humanity charity increases your chances of winning: donate $10 for 100 entries, $25 gets you 250, $50 for 1,000, and $100 buys 2,000 entries.
Prize winners will also be flown out to Virgin Galactic's Spaceport America base in New Mexico—hotel stay included—and will be given a private tour by Branson himself. The trip will involve the VSS Unity being carried to an altitude of 50,000 feet by the double-bodied VMS Eve "mothership" aircraft. At that point, the spaceplane will release and blast to around 250,000 feet, offering views few people have ever seen and the chance to experience weightlessness.
One winner and their guest will be taking part in the experience sometime during early 2022. The competition closes on September 1, and the winner will be announced on September 29.