Former US President Donald Trump credited himself for the ongoing space race between billionaires Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos.
On July 11, Trump called in to Fox News show "Sunday Morning Futures," hosted by Maria Bartiromo, and said that his administration leased facilities to Branson and Bezos so they could go to space, reports the Business Insider.
"They love sending rocket ships up. And I made it possible for them to do this. I actually said to my people, 'Let the private sector do it,'" Trump said to Bartiromo.
"These guys want to come in with billions of dollars. Let's lease them facilities because, you know, you need certain facilities to send up rockets. And we have those facilities. We have the greatest facilities," Trump said.
Contrary to Trump's claims, while Branson and Bezos have indeed tested and launched rockets from government facilities, the terms of those agreements preceded Trump's presidency.
Branson was already forging forward with rocket testing in 2014, when he used the state-owned Mojave Air and Space Port to launch the VSS Enterprise.
The billionaire, who blasted off over the skies of New Mexico on July 11, embarked on his journey from a commercial spaceport in Las Cruces, New Mexico, called Spaceport America. Virgin Galactic relocated its spaceplane testing to the commercial facility in 2020. However, his agreement to be the anchor tenant at the facility - which is owned and operated by the New Mexico Spaceport Authority - dates back to 2011, way before Trump took office in 2017.
Jeff Bezos operates Blue Origin's space ventures from a 165,000-acre parcel of land he purchased in West Texas. And while Bezos did lease space in Florida from the US Air Force to build a launchpad for an orbital launch vehicle, this happened in September 2015, years before Trump took office in January 2017.
Bezos is set to jet off from a launch site owned by Blue Origin in the Texas desert on July 20 with his brother Mark Bezos in a capsule on Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket. The Bezos brothers will be accompanied by 82-year-old aviator Wally Funk and an unidentified bidder who forked out $28 million for a seat on the flight. Blue Origin is planning to beam the Amazon billionaire up to the Kármán line, a point 62 miles above ground level, several miles further than the 53.5-mile mark Branson got to.
Meanwhile, Branson returned to Earth on July 11 after making it to the edge of space during an hour-long round trip on a rocket plane, which he told CNN was "far more extraordinary than (he) could ever, ever imagine."
In the same call, Trump went on to credit the space race to the launch of the Space Force in 2019.
He also claimed that he reopened NASA, despite the agency never having been shut down.
"It was closed, there was grass growing in the cracks of the runway, there were broken-up runaways. And it's now a vibrant, incredible place," Trump said, referring to NASA. "That was a closed, dead field and I'm very, very proud of the Space Force."