Richard Branson says Virgin Galactic will send astronauts into space by Christmas

Billionaire CEO Richard Branson told CNN that Virgin Galactic will send astronauts into space by Christmas.

In the interview published Friday, Branson said that he is "pretty confident" that his company will reach the milestone by the end of 2018.

"We have a brilliant group of astronauts who literally believe 100 percent in the project, and give it their everything," he told CNN's Rachel Crane.
 
"Space is difficult," he joked. "Rocket science is rocket science."
 
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Branson also touted the benefits of having entrepreneurs investing in space travel rather than governments.
 
"The three of us," Branson said, referring to himself, Tesla's Elon Musk and Amazon's Jeff Bezos, "working on space projects, we can do it for a fraction of the price that governments can do it."
 
"The environmental cost, for instance, of Virgin Galactic putting somebody up into space is not that much different from a business class return ticket from London to New York," he explained. "And that's a tiny cost compared to what NASA would spend."

Virgin Galactic was founded in 2005.