Hey, welcome everyone! It’s the latest, greatest game show: Who has the bigger, uh, chance to reach space first?

Today’s contestants are Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. Let’s give them a hand. 

(Or just roll our eyes.)

Virgin Galactic unveiled a strategy to one-up Bezos on Thursday, announcing that the space company would blast off – with Branson on board, of course – on July 11, nine days earlier than the Bezos launch date aboard a Blue Origin vessel.

“After more than 16 years of research, engineering, and testing, Virgin Galactic stands at the vanguard of a new commercial space industry, which is set to open space to humankind and change the world for good,” Branson said in a statement. “I’m honoured to help validate the journey our future astronauts will undertake and ensure we deliver the unique customer experience people expect from Virgin.”

A few details as Virgin Galactic prepares for history:

  • This will be Virgin Galactic’s fourth test space flight.
  • It will be its first mission with a crew of four on board (on a May 22 test flight, there were two pilots).
  • Investors are loving it, with Virgin Galactic stock up north of 20 percent after hours on Thursday, when shares closed at $43.19.
  • Those on board will be Branson, chief astronaut instructor Beth Moses, lead operations engineer Colin Bennett and government affairs VP Sirisha Bandla. Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci will pilot the craft.
  • Twitter, YouTube and Facebook will host the Virgin Galactic livestream.

Branson founded Virgin Galactic in 2004 with the aim to develop a business around space tourism.

The company’s spacecraft – similar to the Bezos mission – will spend a few minutes in microgravity above 80 kilometers altitude — the boundary the U.S. officially recognizes as space — before returning to Earth.

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