‘I have the most understanding wife’, says Richard Branson as he prepares for lift-off

He’s dreamed of going into space since childhood – and has spent 17 years and more than £720million trying to get there.

Today, at 2pm UK time, Sir Richard Branson is set to achieve a life ambition when he boards his Virgin Galactic rocketship and is blasted 55 miles to the edge of space at three times the speed of sound.

Speaking to The Mail on Sunday hours before lift-off from Spaceport America in New Mexico, the 70-year-old maverick tycoon revealed he will take family photos and a Pride flag with him – but not a camera.

‘The last bit of advice I have been given from other astronauts is do not take a camera, do not take notebooks, just look out of the window and look back at this incredible world we live in and take it all in,’ he said. 

Richard Branson has spent 17 years and more than £720million trying to get to space. He described his spouse Joan (both pictured), 73, as 'the most understanding wife on Earth'

Richard Branson has spent 17 years and more than £720million trying to get to space. He described his spouse Joan (both pictured), 73, as 'the most understanding wife on Earth'

Richard Branson has spent 17 years and more than £720million trying to get to space. He described his spouse Joan (both pictured), 73, as ‘the most understanding wife on Earth’

At 2pm, Sir Richard Branson will achieve his goal by boarding his Virgin Galactic rocketship (above) and getting blasted 55 miles to the edge of space at three times the speed of sound

At 2pm, Sir Richard Branson will achieve his goal by boarding his Virgin Galactic rocketship (above) and getting blasted 55 miles to the edge of space at three times the speed of sound

At 2pm, Sir Richard Branson will achieve his goal by boarding his Virgin Galactic rocketship (above) and getting blasted 55 miles to the edge of space at three times the speed of sound

The 70-year-old maverick tycoon revealed he will take family photos and a Pride flag with him – but not a camera. Pictured: Virgin Galactic's passenger rocket plane, the VSS Unity

The 70-year-old maverick tycoon revealed he will take family photos and a Pride flag with him – but not a camera. Pictured: Virgin Galactic's passenger rocket plane, the VSS Unity

The 70-year-old maverick tycoon revealed he will take family photos and a Pride flag with him – but not a camera. Pictured: Virgin Galactic’s passenger rocket plane, the VSS Unity

'As a kid I always dreamed of building a spaceship to go to space on,' he said. Pictured: Sir Richard  at the New York Stock Exchange ahead of Virgin Galactic trading in October 2019

'As a kid I always dreamed of building a spaceship to go to space on,' he said. Pictured: Sir Richard  at the New York Stock Exchange ahead of Virgin Galactic trading in October 2019

‘As a kid I always dreamed of building a spaceship to go to space on,’ he said. Pictured: Sir Richard  at the New York Stock Exchange ahead of Virgin Galactic trading in October 2019

The billionaire Virgin founder described his spouse Joan, 73, as ‘the most understanding wife on Earth’.

‘As a kid I always dreamed of building a spaceship to go to space on,’ he said. ‘It used to be cardboard boxes, then it became a bit bigger: toy spaceships.’

Sir Richard’s Virgin Galactic venture has already faced numerous setbacks, including a fatality in 2014 when pilot Michael Alsbury was killed on a test flight after Virgin Galactic’s VSS Enterprise spaceship broke up mid-flight. 

But the business tycoon, who turns 71 next Sunday, said he was ‘fit and healthy’ and played down the risks, insisting his previous escapades such as crossing the Pacific in a hot air balloon in 1991 had been more dangerous.

‘It [space] is not the most risky adventure I’ve ever done because we’ve had 800 engineers working on it, whereas for our ballooning and boating adventures we had only three or four, but it’s definitely the most extreme, the most exciting,’ he said.

Sir Richard will take with him photos of his parents, children Sam and Holly, five grandchildren and friends’ loved ones. 

Sir Richard's Virgin Galactic (pictured) venture has faced setbacks, including a fatality in 2014 when pilot Michael Alsbury was killed on a test flight after a spaceship broke up mid-flight

Sir Richard's Virgin Galactic (pictured) venture has faced setbacks, including a fatality in 2014 when pilot Michael Alsbury was killed on a test flight after a spaceship broke up mid-flight

Sir Richard’s Virgin Galactic (pictured) venture has faced setbacks, including a fatality in 2014 when pilot Michael Alsbury was killed on a test flight after a spaceship broke up mid-flight

But the founder of Virgin Galactic (pictured at NYSE in October 2019), who turns 71 next Sunday, said he was 'fit and healthy' and played down the risks before take off

But the founder of Virgin Galactic (pictured at NYSE in October 2019), who turns 71 next Sunday, said he was 'fit and healthy' and played down the risks before take off

But the founder of Virgin Galactic (pictured at NYSE in October 2019), who turns 71 next Sunday, said he was ‘fit and healthy’ and played down the risks before take off 

Sir Richard (pictured with crew members in rocket plane VSS Unity) will take with him photos of his parents, children Sam and Holly, five grandchildren and friends' loved ones

Sir Richard (pictured with crew members in rocket plane VSS Unity) will take with him photos of his parents, children Sam and Holly, five grandchildren and friends' loved ones

Sir Richard (pictured with crew members in rocket plane VSS Unity) will take with him photos of his parents, children Sam and Holly, five grandchildren and friends’ loved ones

The tycoon (pictured) is competing with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk in what has been dubbed the 'billionaire space race'

The tycoon (pictured) is competing with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk in what has been dubbed the 'billionaire space race'

The tycoon (pictured) is competing with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk in what has been dubbed the ‘billionaire space race’

The Pride flag is to remember victims of the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting. 

He explained: ‘Somebody who lost a loved one at the Orlando massacre asked if I would do that. We also have many, many friends who are gay and I know people who lost friends there.’

Sir Richard’s late mother Eve had booked a seat on a Virgin Galactic spaceflight but died of Covid-19 in January aged 96.

He said she would be there ‘in spirit’ and has given her name to the mothership VMS Eve, which will carry the VSS Unity spaceship to an altitude of 50,000ft before it points vertically upwards and accelerates to 2,300 miles per hour.

The tycoon is competing with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk in what has been dubbed the ‘billionaire space race’. 

He will beat Mr Bezos’s maiden spaceflight by nine days.

Virgin Galactic, founded in 2004, aims to launch 90-minute commercial spaceflights next year.

Link hienalouca.com

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