The night before a major event for a company he founded, billionaire Richard Branson was woken up by Elon Musk. Here’s the strange but true story.
What Happened: In July 2021, Richard Branson went to space at the age of 71, hitting the milestone aboard a spacecraft from Virgin Galactic SPCE. The flight beat fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos to space in a race between their respective space companies.
The night before his space flight, Branson abruptly woke up to the sight of Musk's barefoot in his kitchen at 2:30 a.m. local time at his New Mexico home. A member of Branson’s family let Musk enter the home.
“Elon had decided to surprise us,” Branson said, recalling the visit to The Sunday Times magazine. “He was there with his baby. Basically, he’s a night animal.”
Musk came to give his well wishes to Branson in person ahead of his trip to space.
“I woke up two hours earlier than I was meant to and jumped out of bed, and then actually realized I’d got the wrong time, but by then I was wide awake.”
According to a new story from Branson, he shared a night with Musk drinking tea “under the stars.”
“He doesn’t really sleep at night and gets his sleep in the daytime. We made a pot of tea and sat outside under the stars and caught up.”
Musk also traveled to the spaceport in New Mexico to watch Branson travel to space aboard the Virgin Galactic vehicle.
Big day ahead. Great to start the morning with a friend. Feeling good, feeling excited, feeling ready.— Richard Branson (@richardbranson) July 11, 2021
Watch #Unity22 launch and livestream TODAY at 7:30 am PT | 10:30 am ET | 3:30 pm BST.@virgingalactic @elonmusk https://t.co/1313b4RAKI pic.twitter.com/FRQqrQEbH8
Musk and Branson first met at the wedding of Google co-founder Larry Page, which was held on Necker Island, the private island owned by Branson.
The surprise meeting between Branson and Musk wasn’t the first, either. Branson also recalls a time in 2008 when he was snow skiing with his family in Switzerland. Musk showed up unexpectedly with a Tesla sports car.
“Elon had just built his first car and shipped it over and drove up to show it to us. We went for a drive in it, and it was extraordinarily comfortable and nice.”
Branson says he suspected that Musk was looking for an investment in Tesla Inc TSLA at the time, which Branson said was “quite little” at the time.
“Elon is tremendously smart and even more driven. He has been inches from failure on many, many occasions and kept pushing. He’s the Henry Ford of his generation.”
Related Link: Richard Branson Hangs Out With Elon Musk Before Historic Spaceflight
Why It’s Important: Over the years, the race to space has been a major story. For decades, it was a battle between the U.S. and Russia for getting the first person into space and the first person on the moon.
Decades later, a battle was heating up between Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin, the company founded by Bezos. The Amazon founder has also been in competition with Musk’s own SpaceX over the years, including several lawsuits involving NASA.
Branson beat Bezos to space by nine days, and being cheered on by Musk might speak volumes of their friendship in the midst of the competitive nature of the space companies.
As Benzinga previously reported, Musk has placed a reservation to take a trip aboard a Virgin Galactic flight to space. Other notable names on the Virgin Galactic reservation logs include Leonardo DiCaprio, Angelina Jolie and Justin Bieber.
Branson joked that Musk’s astronaut training is necessary for the Virgin Galactic flight, and his flight may be postponed due to his takeover of Twitter.
“I would be delighted to see him aboard, but he’s obviously got his hands full at the moment,” Branson said.
Branson has also said he hopes to someday go further into space aboard a SpaceX vehicle from Musk.
Branson said over 900 people have placed reservations with Virgin Galactic with tickets currently priced at $450,000 and the next commercial flight is scheduled for the summer of 2023.
Branson has also booked future flights to space with Virgin Galactic for his 80th, 90th and 100th birthday.
“Most likely I’ll book for my 110th birthday as well because I’m forever an optimist. I hope that on at least one of those trips the children and grandchildren come.”
You may be wondering if there are perks of being friends with Branson or showing up at his house in the middle of the night to sip tea under the stars.
“We haven’t done any discounts for space, not even for Elon.”
Read Next: Why Virgin Galactic Shares Are Blasting Off
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