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By Julia Glum
July 8, 2021
A photo collage of Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson next to a spaceship with starry sky and smoke made out of twenty dollar bills
Money; Shutterstock; Getty Images

It's Bezos vs. Branson in a billionaire space race set to go down — or, rather, up — this month.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Virgin founder Richard Branson are separately planning to travel to space in the coming days, potentially ushering in an era of space tourism just 52 years after the moon landing. Both trips are being facilitated by companies the two billionaires own, and the timeline is tight: Branson's liftoff is scheduled for Sunday, July 11, while Bezos' is July 20.

Despite the rivalry, the two trips have a lot in common. They're historic, they're risky, and they're extremely expensive.

It's unclear how much the flights will cost the founders themselves, but we do know that someone paid $30 million to secure a seat on Bezos' spacecraft. A still-unidentified bidder beat out roughly 7,600 people from 159 countries in a recent charity auction to take part in the Blue Origin trip, which will last about 11 minutes. (That's $45,454 per second.)

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The price tag may seem outrageous, but it's actually not too far off from what previous civilians have paid for a chance to escape Earth.

The first-ever space tourist, an American named Dennis Tito, forked over $20 million to tag along with Russian cosmonauts on an eight-day trip to the International Space Station in 2001.

A year later, Russia's space agency kicked *NSYNC member Lance Bass off the crew of a similar trip when he and a host of sponsors couldn't pay that same $20 million fare. A NASA spokeswoman called it "a business decision." (In a particularly brutal twist, the Russians allegedly sent up a container of cargo equal to Bass' exact mass instead.)

For Bezos and Branson, money is, of course, no object. But us plebs face a few financial obstacles. Unless you have a sky-high credit limit and credit score, you probably can't afford to put a $30 million trip to space on your credit card.

Still, you do have options.

Branson's Virgin Galactic, which calls itself "the world’s first commercial spaceline," is planning to open up a "tranche of spaceflight reservations" later this year. Billionaires and non-billionaires alike can register their interest in joining a trip on Virgin Galactic's website.

Virgin Galactic has been hyping space tourism — and increasing prices for it — for years. In 2004, Branson vowed to offer tickets for $200,000; by 2019, reservations cost $250,000 per person. According to NBC, over 700 people have booked slots so far. Among them are Leonardo DiCaprio and Justin Bieber, who in 2013 tweeted "let's shoot a music video in SPACE!!"

If budget space travel isn't your style, another option is Axiom Space, which is charging three men $55 million each for an eight-day jaunt to the International Space Station in 2022.

Alternatively, Sandra Bullock's Gravity is available to rent for $3.99 on Amazon Prime Video. Just saying.

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