Tara Clemenceau, 11, visiting from France, tries her hand at the controls of a Mercury space capsule at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville. Pic: AP Photo/Vasha Hunt
Three companies are leading the charge in commercial space travel as they race to get tourists beyond orbit.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s firm SpaceX, Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin are all vying to be the first companies to send up the first commercial space flight.

But while Sir Richard believes Musk is “doing fantastically well” in getting cargo into space – including his own car – the real tussle is between the Virgin boss and Bezos.

Musk has reached dizzying heights with his numerous private space deliveries to the International Space Station at an altitude of around 408,000 metres but is yet to fly any of his planned passenger-carrying craft.

Virgin Galactic reached a top altitude of 52,000 metres during a test of its VSS Unity spacecraft, which has room for six passengers and is lifted toward space on a huge carrier aircraft, on May 29.

Eventually, the company wants to fly space tourists to an altitude of 110,000 metres going beyond the 100,000 metres defined as the boundary of space.

Blue Origin  flew its New Shepherd space pod , which launches aboard a traditional rocket capsule, to an altitude of 107,000 metres during a test flight near Van Horn, Texas, on April 29.

The reusable New Shepard rocket and spacecraft is intended to carry up to six space tourists, researchers and/or experiments on brief suborbital flights, the company has said.

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