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Sir Richard Branson is "ignoring" billionaire space race rival Jeff Bezos over whether he really went into space.

Amazon founder Bezos is among those who have questioned the validity of the mission carried out by Sir Richard's company Virgin Galactic, which saw the British entrepreneur reach a height of 50 miles in what has been called the first commercial space flight.

The trip also made him the first of the new space tourism pioneers to try out their own vehicles, beating Bezos and SpaceX'sElon Musk.

Sir Richard's expedition beats Bezos' by just over a week, with the American mogul set to be launched into space in his Blue Origin New Shepard rocket next Tuesday.

But Blue Origin, the space exploration company set up by Bezos, has mocked Virgin Galactic's achievement and questioned whether the journey its Unity rocket took even counts as going to space.

Sir Richard's craft maxes out at an altitude of 50 miles, the edge of space as defined by NASA, but Blue Origin's tops the so-called Kármán Line, which is the internationally recognised boundary of space about 62 miles above the Earth.

Blue Origin dismissed Unity as nothing more than a "high altitude airplane" that doesn't even technically reach space.

The firm also quipped that none of their astronauts have an "asterisk" next to their name.

Sir Richard told the Sun he was simply going to "ignore" the remarks.

He said: "I have my astronaut wings. NASA, who are the global authority on this, have always recognised 50 miles as the boundary of space. These are the rules we work under.

"Blue Origin's initial spaceship may be a handful or two handfuls of seconds more in space than us, but our future spaceship will do the same.

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"It really makes no difference to the overall experience that people have. I think if anybody looks at the pictures taken during the mission, they will see that we were firmly in space."

Sir Richard's mission on Sunday saw him take off from New Mexico with five of his crewmates.

They blasted 50 miles above the Earth where they experienced four minutes of weightlessness before Unity glided back down to the ground.

The billionaire founded Virgin Galactic 17 years ago and says he achieved a "lifelong dream" by going to the edge of space.

It was seen as a step forward in space tourism with some 600 individuals already paying deposits for tickets to Virgin Galactic that will cost them up to $250,000 (£180,000).

Bezos is preparing to blast off with five crewmates into orbit on Tuesday, July 20.

One of the people onboard is an unnamed auction winner who paid a staggering $28 million (£20.22 million) – their identity is set to be revealed in the coming days.

  • Spacex
  • Jeff Bezos
  • Space
  • Nasa

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