Richard Branson’s Credibility Begins to Crumble

branson_richardson_ss2
Richard Branson and then-Gov. Bill Richardson at Spaceport America in New Mexico in 2010. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

Richard Branson is beginning to take a pounding in the British media as the 10th anniversary of his announcement of SpaceShipTwo approaches next Saturday.

When he announced SpaceShipTwo on Sept. 27, 2004, Branson promised to be flying in only three years. “Within five years, Virgin Galactic will have created over 3,000 new astronauts from many countries,” Branson said.

Commercial flights are now running more than 7 years behind schedule, with the first flight unlikely before next February and possibly much later. Now the British media are beginning to notice.

Why the only thing Branson has fired into space is his ego: 700 VIPs have paid £50m for tickets into orbit. But six years after the Virgin boss promised blast off, his space ship STILL isn’t ready
Daily Mail

Deep in the American West lies a vast, arid desert plain known as ‘Jordana de Muerto’, or ‘Journey of the Dead Man’. The desolate, sun-beaten expanse of deepest New Mexico is flat and deeply inhospitable.

Yet it is here, four hours’ drive from Albuquerque, that a security gate marks the entrance to perhaps the world’s most spectacular white elephant….

Talk your way in and you’ll find a huge futuristic glass, steel and concrete building designed by the superstar architect Sir Norman Foster.

No expense was spared. Indeed, it cost local taxpayers, who footed the entire bill, almost a quarter of a billion U.S. dollars.

Remarkably, every penny of this huge sum, every brick that was laid, and every tonne of publicly-funded concrete poured into the desert, has been devoted to a singular cause: putting Sir Richard Branson into space.

The $80m Virginauts stranded on Earth
London Sunday Times
(Subscription Required)

SIR RICHARD BRANSON is facing a backlash from aspiring astronauts who have booked a $250,000 seat on his space rocket after he revealed on an American television chat show the latest in a series of delays to the inaugural flight.

News of the latest setback to Branson’s commercial space programme came in an interview last week with David Letterman, the programme’s host, when the entrepreneur said he hoped to take the first commercial trip into space on Virgin Galactic in “February or March or next year”. He has previously said that he would be travelling into space by the end of this year.

The latest delay led to claims that the project was in crisis with some customers questioning whether the rocket would ever get into space.

Beam us up, Beardie!
Private Eye

WHEN will Sir Richard Branson launch himself into space? “What people forget is that it is rocket science,” he quipped in February. “It is complicated. But now every box has been ticked and we’re nearly there.” Er, how nearly? “We have a launch date this summer… By September, I hope to have gone to space.”

September is upon us, so presumably Beardie Lightyear is now aboard his rocket, preparing to slip the surly bonds of earth with a cry of “To infinity and beyond!” Or, on past form, perhaps not…