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A look back at Virgin Galactic’s failed history

Link here. Doug Messier has probably provided the best news coverage of every up and down (mostly down) of Virgin Galactic since its beginning. As he notes at the beginning of his article:

A lot can happen in 18 years.

A mother can go from holding her newborn baby in her arms to sending her child off the college for the first time. In between, the child has learned to walk and talk, endured the rigors of puberty, and spent at least 13 years in school.

During that same time, Virgin Galactic essentially accomplished nothing, while wasting billions in private investment capital. Meanwhile, Richard Branson pumped and dumped, getting out when the getting was good and leaving others to hold the bag.

Definitely worth the read. The story of Virgin Galactic demonstrates the risks inherent in capitalism and freedom. Freedom allows for big dreams, but before you commit to any dream you better look it over very carefully or you might be burned.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News


  • Col Beausabre

    It never ceases to amaze me that Branson is not in jail somewhere. As for Branson the person, my dad had an expression from his Texas upbringing, “All hat and no cattle”

  • pzatchok

    Can anyone say “US tax dodge”?

  • Mitch S.

    Hmm, comparing Virgin to NASA in the Apollo era is somewhat unfair.
    Apollo was a “cost is no object” “full speed ahead” project by the richest, most powerful nation.
    It also cost 3 lives (and by luck or the grace of G-d, didn’t cost more).
    The Shuttle also cost a tremendous amount and cost many more lives.

    Virgin is like so many companies started by a dreamer/entrepreneur that barely got off the ground (just look at the auto industry: Tucker, DeLorean, Bricklin, Fisker, all those flying cars etc etc).
    Where to draw the line between salesmanship and swindle I’ll leave to the lawyers.

    What has really altered our standard for a startup space company is SpaceX.
    Without SpaceX we’d be comparing Virgin to Blue Origin or NASA’s SLS -I suppose Rocket Lab would be a standout but they aren’t doing manned launches. New Shepard seems to be a more robust system but hasn’t flown anything more than demo flights either.

    I’m not saying that Virgin hasn’t been a disappointment. It seemed so promising at the beginning. The air launch spaceplane idea seemed so sensible. It was something that’s been done before (x-planes, particularly the X15), Burt Rutan was behind it and Space Ship One was successful. (And Virgin’s spaceship didn’t look like a penis!) Maybe with better management they could have made it happen, or maybe the business model is broken.
    They are still trying so we’ll see.

    I think the key to SpaceX is Musk. He has engineering background, thinks like an engineer , has tech interest and enthusiasm along with entrepreneurial drive. Branson and Bezos are just entrepreneurs and businessmen. You never see and interview with them like the tours Musk gives of Space X .

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