Virgin Galactic admits pre-launch Branson bike ride never happened

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By Julio-Cesar Chavez and Steve Gorman

(Reuters) – Virgin Galactic Holding Inc admitted on Tuesday that billionaire founder Richard Branson had never cycled to his spaceflight launch site on Sunday, as shown in a high-profile video included in the webcast of the event by the company.

The video clip showed Branson cycling towards New Mexico state-owned Spaceport America near the town of Truth or Consequences, flanked by two SUVs, and handing his hard hat to an assistant upon his arrival.

Branson, 70, is then seen greeting his teammates in their flight suits with a hug, with one of them, Beth Moses, the company’s chief astronaut instructor, telling him: “You’re late, hurry up.”

On Tuesday, a Virgin Galactic official, speaking anonymously, told Reuters by text message that the video in question was filmed on July 5, the Monday before the flight, and that Branson had not done anything at all. bike on launch day.

“The footage of Sir Richard Branson shown at the event on Sunday was pre-recorded and misidentified on the show. We regret the error and any confusion it may have caused, ”the official said in a text message.

It was not clear whether the disclosure that the Sunday bike ride was fictitious would complicate Virgin Galactic’s cross-promotion deal with Wisconsin-based Trek Bicycle Corp. Trek had claimed that Branson drove one of his custom bikes to the spaceport on launch day.

Representatives from Trek were not immediately available for comment on the matter.

Branson introduced his rocket-plane ride, the company’s first fully-crewed vehicle test flight to space, as a forerunner of a new era of astro-tourism, the company he founded. being ready to begin commercial operations next year.

The alleged Sunday bike ride seemed to characterize his public figure as an adventurous corporate executive whose Virgin brands – from airlines to music companies – have been linked to ocean-crossing exploits on sailboats and of hot air balloons.

The video clip of the bike was posted to Branson’s Twitter feed https://twitter.com/i/status/1414205913200746498 shortly before Sunday’s launch. Virgin also released the clip, with the tagline “earlier today,” during its https://youtu.be/RTpWYWIfP7Y?t=1102 live presentation of the flight.

Branson, himself, made mention of the bike ride from the scene of a post-flight celebration at the spaceport, telling a crowd of supporters: “It’s so great to come by bike, through this beautiful countryside of New Mexico. “

Reuters, along with many other news outlets, included the video account of Branson’s bike ride in part of its launch day coverage on Sunday. Reuters took the bike ride out of its history when doubts about its timing emerged early Sunday.

(Reporting by Julio-Cesar Chavez in Washington and Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; editing by Paul Thomasch and Howard Goller)


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