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Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos has offered his congratulations to Virgin owner Sir Richard Branson on his maiden voyage into space.
The 70-year-old British billionaire flew to the edge of space aboard Virgin Galactic's first fully crewed flight on Sunday.
Branson and five crewmates reached an altitude of 53.5 miles (86 kilometres) over the New Mexico desert before gliding safely back to Earth.
The altitude was enough to experience three to four minutes of weightlessness and witness the curvature of the Earth – which Branson called an 'experience of a lifetime'.
The brief, up-and-down flight was intended as a confidence-boosting plug for Virgin Galactic, which plans to start taking paying customers on joyrides next year.
Tourists are expected to pay 250,000 US dollars (£180,000) for a spaceflight on Virgin Galactic, which includes four minutes of zero gravity.
Bezos, who was also the founder of Amazon, is due to make his own trip on July 20 – the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos posted to Instagram: ''@richardbransonand crew, congratulations on the flight. Can't wait to join the club!'
In this photo provided by Virgin Galactic, the VSS Unity's rocket motor burns above the Earth on Sunday, July 11, 2021. Branson and five crewmates reached an altitude of 53.5 miles (86 kilometres) over the New Mexico desert before gliding safely back to Earth
Virgin Galactic's passenger rocket plane VSS Unity, borne by twin-fuselage carrier jet dubbed VMS Eve, takes off with billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson and his crew for travel to the edge of space at Spaceport America
'@richardbransonand crew, congratulations on the flight. Can't wait to join the club!,' Bezos posted to Instagram on Monday.
Prior to the flight, Bezos had posted a photo of Branson with the caption: 'wishing you and the whole team a successful and safe flight tomorrow. Best of luck!'
Bezos will travel with his younger brother Mark, a charity auction winner who's shelling out $28 million and pioneering female astronaut Wally Funk, 82.
Jeff Bezos posts a message to Richard Branson (pictured) on July 10, 2021: @richardbranson wishing you and the whole team a successful and safe flight tomorrow. Best of luck!'
The Blue Origin passengers will spend at least 10 minutes floating in zero gravity inside the capsule during the suborbital sightseeing trip.
Blue Origin named the New Shepard program after astronaut Alan Shepard, who was the first American to fly into space 60 years ago.
The flight will mark a huge milestone in the mission to send paying customers to the edge of space – an industry known as 'space tourism'.
Branson flew into space aboard a Virgin Galactic vessel, a voyage he described as the 'experience of a lifetime' at the Spaceport America in New Mexico, US
Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo space plane Unity and mothership separate as they fly way above Spaceport America, near Truth and Consequences, New Mexico on July 11, 2021 on the way to the cosmos
Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos (pictured), who also founded Amazon, has an estimated personal worth of $186.2 billion (£131.5 billion)
Virgin Galactic's passenger rocket plane VSS Unity, carrying Richard Branson and crew, begins its ascent to the edge of space
Blue Origin was formed by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in 2000.
The firm's mission statement reads on its website: 'We're committed to building a road to space so our children can build the future.'
It's believed the company is largely propped from the American billionaire's own back pocket, selling millions of pounds worth of Amazon stock each year to fund his aerospace company.
Bezos outlined Blue Origin's intergalactic plans in a revealing interview in 2017, explaining his visions of colonies on the moon and harvesting resources from asteroids.
He said: 'I want my grandchildren’s grandchildren to be in a world of pioneering, exploration and expansion throughout the solar system.'
But Branson has arguably 'won the space race' by pipping Bezos to the post by just nine days, as well as SpaceX founder Elon Musk, who tweeted, 'Congratulations, beautiful flight!'
Sunday's launch was hailed a 'landmark moment' for Branson, as well as the whole commercial space industry.
Take-off had been delayed by about 90 minutes on Sunday due to the weather overnight at Spaceport America in New Mexico, in the US.
Once it reaches 50,000 feet the carrier plane releases Unity, a reusable, winged spacecraft designed to carry six passengers and two pilots into space.
Footage streamed live online showed the Virgin Galactic in the air at about 3.45pm UK time, and the aircraft had reached 40,000 feet by 4pm.
The spacecraft was carried up into the atmosphere by its mothership, the VSS Unity, before being released so it could power up to highs of 250,000 feet.
Sir Richard and his crew reached speeds of Mach 3 on their way to the edge of space.
After a short spell during which they experienced weightlessness, the craft then pointed downwards and made its way back to the ground, touching down around 4.40pm.
On the return flight, Sir Richard hailed the 'experience of a lifetime' and the 'hard, hard work' that went into the flight.
Speaking to a crowd of spectators afterwards, Branson said: 'Like most kids, I have dreamt of this moment since I was kid. But nothing can prepare you for the view of Earth from space, the whole thing was just magical.'