Richard Branson promises to take Pride flag to the edge of space to honour Pulse massacre victims

Sir Richard LGBT+ Pride flag Pulse

British entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson has vowed to take a Pride flag into space after being asked to do so by someone who “lost a loved one” at the 2016 Pulse massacre.

His extraterrestrial venture Virgin Galactic will send its space plane into sub-orbital flight Sunday (11 July). Branson will be flying with two pilots and three other passengers. A live broadcast of the hour-long flight is being streamed live on the Virgin Galactic website.

Branson revealed to The Mail on Sunday that he has chosen to take a few select items with him into space – family photos and a rainbow flag. He told the news outlet that the LGBT+ flag was meant to remember the victims of the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting.

“Somebody who lost a loved one at the Orlando massacre asked if I would do that,” Branson explained. “We also have many, many friends who are gay and I know people who lost friends there.”

Branson’s flight comes nearly a month after the fifth anniversary of the mass shooting at Pulse – a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. In the early morning hours of 12 June 2016, an armed man stormed into the club and killed 49 people and wounded 53 more before he was eventually shot in a police standoff.

The horrific events of that night sent shockwaves through the world, and it remains the single deadliest attack on the LGBT+ community in the history of the United States.

Richard Branson told The Mail on Sunday that he wouldn’t be bringing a camera with him into space. He explained that “other astronauts” told him not to take a camera or notebooks into space.

Instead, Branson was told to “just look out of the window and look back at this incredible world we live in and take it all in”.

Sir Richard Branson spacewear Virgin Galactic astronauts

Sir Richard Branson demonstrates a spacewear system, designed for Virgin Galactic astronauts, at an event on 16 October 2019. (Photo by DON EMMERT/AFP via Getty Images)

Richard Branson has been locked in a ‘billionaire space race’ with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk for years. According to the BBC, he first announced his intention to make a space plane in 2004 with the idea to offer a commercial service by 2007.

However, his space journey has been fraught with technical difficulties, and co-pilot Michael Alsbury was killed during a development flight in 2014. Pilot Peter Siebold was seriously injured as a result of the crash.

Richard Branson will beat Bezos into space by nine days, according to the Guardian. Bezos is expected to make his launch into space on his rocket, New Shepard, alongside five others on 20 July.

Musk said on Twitter that he will attend Branson’s launch event to “wish you the best”. It’s unclear from the tweet if Musk meant that he will be present at the launch site or merely join the event online.