Video of Richard Branson's desert bike ride was recorded before Unity 22 launch day, Virgin Galactic clarifies

A Virgin Galactic video of founder Richard Branson's bike ride ahead of his launch into space on the company's Unity 22 mission in New Mexico this week was actually recorded and did not occur on the same day as the flight, the company clarified today..

The video showed Branson, who is famous for athletic activities, riding a bike toward Spaceport America near the town of Truth and Consequences, New Mexico. That was the site where Virgin Galactic VSS Unity spaceliner safely took off and landed with Branson and five other crew members aboard on Sunday (July 11) in a milestone test flight for the company. A caption on the video suggested that it happened "Earlier Today" and it was noted by webcast commentators, but that was an error, Virgin Galactic said. 

"The footage of Sir Richard Branson shown during the event today [July 11] was prerecorded and misidentified in the broadcast. We regret the error and any confusion it may have caused," Virgin Galactic representatives said in a statement emailed to reported on the video on launch day and has corrected its story. 

Related: Virgin Galactic launches Richard Branson to space in 1st fully crewed flight More: 'Welcome to the dawn of a new space age,' Branson says

Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson rides a bike to Spaceport America ahead of his launch on the Unity 22 mission on July 11, 2021. (Image credit: Virgin Galactic)

A Reuters report, quoting an anonymous source from Virgin Galactic, said the video was filmed on July 5 and Branson was not on his bike on launch day. The bicycle video clip was also posted to Branson's Twitter feed shortly before the launch.

Branson also told spectators about the bike ride during a post-flight celebration at the spaceport, Reuters said. "It's so awesome to arrive on a bicycle, across this beautiful New Mexico countryside," Branson was quoted as telling the crowd from a stage.

The Branson flight by Virgin Galactic is part of the company's bid to open seats to paying space tourists in the coming months. The 70-year-old Branson founded the company in 2004 and has been wanting to go to space since July 1969, when he saw the Apollo 11 astronauts landing on the moon.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: