The original Apollo Moon landings have long been subject to conspiracy theories, that the landing – or entire flight – were a hoax, staged to win the Cold War-era Space Race. Now, the current billionaire’s space race has its own conspiracy theory, albeit a far more petty one.
Just days after Richard Branson’s famous flight, edging closer to the goal of commercial space flight, Virgin Galactic is admitting not everything was quite ad advertised.
Yes, Branson travelled to the edge of space.
No, it seems the British billionaire did not ride his custom Trek Domane Project One to the flight, as a highly publicized promotional video claimed.
— Richard Branson (@richardbranson) July 11, 2021
The road to Truth and Consequences lacks truth, consequences unclear
Virgin Galactic Holding Inc. admitted to Reuters on Tuesday that Branson did not actually ride his bike to Spaceport America on the day of the flight. This makes it wonderfully ironic that the state-owned facility is located near the town of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.
Virgin Galactic’s video shows Branson, escorted by two SUVs, arriving at Spaceport America riding his custom Trek. He’s greeted by the crew, including the company’s chief astronaut instructor, Beth Moses, who playfully chastises him for being “late.”
That video was Tweeted from Branson’s account shortly before takeoff on Monday, July 12. An anonymous Virgin Galactic official admitted to Reuters that the video was filmed a week earlier, on Monday, July 5. In fact, Branson did not ride his bike at all on the day of the flight as was claimed by Virgin, Trek. Branson himself commented on the ride in a post-flight press conference, saying “It’s so awesome to arrive on a bicycle, across this beautiful New Mexico countryside.”
Which probably would have been a great ride, had it happened.
Yesterday, @richardbranson rode his custom Trek Domane to the launch of the VSS Unity 22 spaceflight.
The custom Domane Unity 22 Project One Ultimate was designed exclusively for this spaceflight, resembling the design of the VSS Unity space plane. pic.twitter.com/V7t8EQA7pO
— Trek Bicycle (@TrekBikes) July 12, 2021
It’s unclear what consequences there will be for Branson and Virgin’s failures on the truth side of the equation. Trek will probably be none too pleased that their Unity 22 Project One bike is now part of the latest space hoax. Especially since the Madison, Wisc.-based brand repeated those claims, plus whatever investment the brand had in this cross-promotional charade.
Whatever financial consequences there are for Virgin and Branson are unlikely to be more than a minor annoyance to the billionaire. Adding fuel to the space hoax crowd, though, is really not a great development.
At least the memes will be good.