Washington: Virgin Galactic has acknowledged that billionaire founder Richard Branson never rode a bicycle to the launch site of his space flight on Sunday, as depicted in a highly publicised video included in the company’s webcast of the event.
The video clip showed Branson riding his bike toward New Mexico’s state-owned Spaceport America near the town of Truth or Consequences, flanked by two SUVs, and handing his bike helmet to an assistant upon arrival.
Branson, 70, is then seen greeting crewmates dressed 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 (Wednesday AEST), a Virgin Galactic official, speaking anonymously, affirmed that the video in question was filmed on July 5, the Monday before the flight, and that Branson did not ride his bike at all the day of the launch.
“The footage of Sir Richard Branson shown during the event Sunday was prerecorded and misidentified in the broadcast. We regret the error and any confusion it may have caused,” the official said in a text message.
It was unclear whether the disclosure that the Sunday cycling ride was fictional would complicate Virgin Galactic’s cross-promotional deal with Wisconsin-based Trek Bicycle Corp. Trek had claimed that Branson rode one of its custom-made bikes to the spaceport on launch day.
Representatives of Trek were not immediately available to comment on the matter.