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Amazon supremo Jeff Bezos has thrown down the gauntlet to Brit entrepreneur Richard Branson by declaring that he is also going into the space tourism business.

Branson has already ordered a fleet of vehicles based on Burt Rutan's X-Prize winning SpaceShipOne, and plans to offer short jaunts by 2007. Bezos too has set his sights on the stars, but reckons he will be blasting off in his own Blue Origin vehicle - designed and contructed by Bezos's Blue Origin start-up, Reuters reports.

There's not much to see on the website other than some blurb which declares:

Blue Origin is developing vehicles and technologies that, over time, will help enable an enduring human presence in space. Our initial research efforts are focused on reusable liquid propulsion systems, low cost operations, life support, abort systems and human factors. We are currently working to develop a crewed, suborbital launch system that emphasizes safety and low cost of operations.

Bezos admits that he has dreamed of travelling into space since he was a nipper growing up in Texas. However, he rejects the possibility of hitching a ride on one of Branson's Virgin Galactica rocket ships, saying: "I very much hope to go up one day, and I think that will happen. I think I will go up on a Blue Origin vehicle."

Blue Origin is currently hiring from a range of disciplines, including systems, structural and turbomachinery engineers. The company also invites resumes from talented individuals, presumably including 7-foot men with steel teeth, because Bezos is going to need some muscle when Branson's spaceship-eating rocket gobbles up Blue Origin and carries it to a volcano in Japan where the Virgin head honcho will be found dressed in black and stroking a white cat on a leather recliner expounding his plan for galactic domination to a rapt audience of shareholders.

In the meantime, we wish both men well with their endeavours, and look forward to "two Earth orbits for a tenner" voucher deals and short weekend breaks to the Moon, which should be an everyday occurrence right about the time when we take delivery of our flying car and housework-busting robobutler. ®

Related stories

Virgin space tourists will blast off to Bowie
Virgin to offer space flights
SpaceShipOne claims X-Prize

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