Richard Branson says he doesn't like being known as a 'billionaire'

Don’t call me a billionaire! Sir Richard Branson says he’d rather be known as a ‘creative who makes special things’ as he defends £1billion Virgin Galactic space mission for benefitting science

  • Sir Richard appeared on Lorraine in first UK interview since returning from space
  • Defended £1billion project, arguing space transforms lives back here on Earth
  • Speaking from Necker Island home, said he doesn’t like being labelled billionaire

Sir Richard Branson says he doesn’t like being described as a billionaire and would prefer to be known as ‘a creative who creates special things that people can enjoy’.

In his first UK interview since his Virgin Galactic spacecraft returned from a flight through the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere last week, the British entrepreneur spoke with Lorraine Kelly live from his home on Necker Island this morning.

Sir Richard is the first person to enter space in their own vessel, a feat he accomplished nine days before Amazon founder Jeff Bezos plans to ride his own rocket ship – New Shepard – into space from Texas on July 20. 

Appearing on the ITV programme, he defended the £1billion project, arguing that space transforms our lives back here on Earth, and admitted he resents being labelled a billionaire.

Sir Richard Branson says he doesn’t like being described as a billionaire and would prefer to be known as ‘a creative who creates special things that people can enjoy’

‘I  must admit I haven’t liked the word billionaire,’ he said. ‘It’s like, “Richard Branson, billionaire”. I think what all of us [Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk] are trying to do is to spend our lives creating things that we can be proud of, that make a difference in the world and hopefully pay the bills at the end of the year. 

‘Space was tough, we had 17 years when it nearly broke the bank account at Virgin. Now when Covid reared its head actually Space came and helped keep Virgin Atlantic’s employees employed and Virgin Voyages employees employed and so on.’

He added: ‘I like to feel myself as a creative who creates special things that people can enjoy and I think there’s going to be a lot of kids watching this programme who one day will become astronauts and one day will go to space.’

Sir Richard claimed it ‘didn’t matter’ to him that he beat Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos to ride his own rocket ship into space, having brought his mission forward to do so. 

Sir Richard claimed it ‘didn’t matter’ to him that he beat Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos to ride his own rocket ship into space, having brought his mission forward to do so

‘Elon was a real gent turning up and coming with his child to wish us well and watch the flight,’ he told Lorraine.

‘And Jeff I wish him all the best in a week’s time. Again, Jeff’s programme, Elon’s programme, all our programmes will make a big positive difference.’

He went on: ‘Space actually already transforms our lives back here on Earth, a lot of people just don’t know that the phones they’re using or the satellite link between us today is all to do with space – without space we wouldn’t be connected. There are two and a half billion people in the world who are not connected.

‘The same way we put Virgin Galactic up we put Virgin Orbit up which was a giant rocket from a 747 putting satellites into space and they will start connecting people.

‘We’ve had scientists in our spaceships doing tests because Virgin Galactic goes to a place in the air that balloons can’t reach and satellites can’t get to. So scientists are really excited about the fact that they can do experiments and be in the spaceship when they’re doing them which hasn’t been able to happen before. 

In his first UK interview since his Virgin Galactic spacecraft returned from a flight through the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere last week, the British entrepreneur spoke with Lorraine Kelly live from his home on Necker Island this morning

‘There are so many things that benefit from space and so many more things I think that can now benefit from Virgin Galactic and Virgin Orbit’s push into space as well.’

Sir Richard said he will continue to work towards ‘sorting out the issues of the world’ – with his trip to space spurring him on to do so.

‘In the last 25 years I’ve devoted most of my life to trying to help sort out the issues of the world, climate change or rainforest issues or ocean degradation and so on,’ he said.

‘The next 25 years, being an optimist, we’ll put the whole of the Virgin effort into all these different issues around the world. Most people who have been to space come back feeling the same way. 

‘There’s nothing else out there like Earth, we live on something with beautiful unique species that need to be protected and we’ve all got to get out to play our bit while we can and protect them.’

Describing the moment his rocket disconnected from the mothership, Sir Richard said:  ‘When they turn on the rocket you just go nought to 3,500 miles an hour in roughly eight seconds, and you’ve got the roar of the engine as you go straight up – you’re just looking straight up – and then that wonderful silence as you hit space’

Speaking about the reception he received back home on Necker Island following his mission, Richard said: ‘I came down to wonderful comments from the grandkids – the youngest, the 2 year-old said, “Pappa gone to the moon!”

‘It’s been an absolute delight and when we got back to the island, everyone had dressed up in spacesuits and we had a wonderful welcome from the islanders. Plus lots and lots of kids, which is particularly pleasant about the whole adventure.’

On taking a call from Buzz Aldrin, he admitted: ‘That was incredible because as a teenager I looked up at the moon when Buzz Aldrin was literally on the moon and Neil Armstrong, and that’s really what inspired me to do this program in the first place. 

‘Plus, a phone in programme on English telly when somebody asked me the question, “Would you ever want to go up in a spaceship?” But Buzz is 91 years-old and it was obviously a great honour that he rang straight after the flight.’

Asked how he coped with the zero gravity, he recalled: ‘The moment you know the body is working and you’re not going to let the side down, you can just sit back and have the most ridiculous day of your life!

The successful mission made Sir Richard the second oldest person to travel to space – after 77-year-old John Glenn in 1998

‘You’re first of all taken up in the mothership to 60,000 feet and then dropped away and then when they turn on the rocket you just go nought to 3,500 miles an hour in roughly eight seconds, and you’ve got the roar of the engine as you go straight up – you’re just looking straight up – and then that wonderful silence as you hit space… and when you unbuckle, I mean Peter Pan was my favourite character figure as a kid and I’ve always wanted to fly… There’s no better way of putting it.

‘[I felt] like a bird who had just taken off for the first time… you can then look out of these big windows back at Earth and Earth is an extraordinarily beautiful place, and we were all blessed to have those spectacular views.’ 

The successful mission made Sir Richard the second oldest person to travel to space – after 77-year-old John Glenn in 1998. 

Prior to take off he told the Times newspaper that the view alone will be worth the £1billion he has spent on the project, and added: ‘I think it’s one of the reasons that people want to become astronauts. They want to look back at this beautiful Earth.’ 

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