Sir Richard Branson has revealed he is training to become an astronaut, saying he expects to be launched into space within months.
The Virgin boss is trying to get Virgin Galactic – the commercial space travel company he founded – off the ground, and is eager to be one of the first space tourists.
“We’re talking about months not years – so it’s close. There are exciting times ahead,” the 67-year-old billionaire told BBC Radio 4’s You And Yours, to be broadcast on Monday.
“I’m going for astronaut training, I’m going for fitness training, centrifuge and other training so that my body will hopefully cope well when I go to space.”
Sir Richard, tech titan Elon Musk and Amazon boss Jeff Bezos are fronting the charge in commercial space travel as they race to become the first to catapult tourists into space.
While Sir Richard believes Musk is “doing fantastically well” managing to transport cargo into space and building bigger and bigger rockets, he suggests the real struggle is between the Virgin boss and Mr Bezos.
“I think we’re both [Sir Richard and Mr Bezos] neck and neck as to who will put people into space first. Ultimately we have to do it safely. It’s more a race with ourselves to make sure we have the craft that are safe to put people up there.”
The entrepreneur is keen to be one of those first space tourists.
He said his astronaut training had gone well so far, revealing he has managed to build his fitness up by playing tennis four times a day.
“Instead of doing one set of tennis every morning and every evening I’m doing two sets. I’m going kiting and biking, doing whatever it takes to make me as fit as possible.”
The Virgin founder is also taking part in demanding centrifuge training, which recreates the pressures the human body undergoes during space flight.
All astronauts are forced to go through G-force training, which mimics the experience of take-off and travel through the Earth’s atmosphere.
Sir Richard added: “If you’re going to really enjoy the experience, the fitter you can be the better”.
Earlier this year Virgin Galactic accomplished a supersonic test flight of its SpaceShipTwo passenger rocket ship.