Billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson made history on July 11 by flying to the edge of space in his Virgin Galactic rocket plane, and he did it while proudly wearing a rainbow flag pin in memory of the Pulse Nightclub victims.
“Somebody who lost a loved one at the Orlando massacre asked if I would do that,” Branson told the Daily Mail. “We also have many, many friends who are gay and I know people who lost friends there.”
Branson also posted a video to Twitter in which he showed off the pin. “My mission statement is to turn the dream of space travel into a reality for my grandchildren, for your grandchildren, for everyone,” punctuating the “for everyone” with a close-up of the ribbon affixed to his chest.
The ribbon was created by Orlando Ribbon Project founder Ben Johansen following the Pulse nightclub shooting on June 12, 2016, when 49 people lost their lives. In a Facebook post, Johansen shared how the ribbon ended up on the flight. After successfully getting ribbons in “all 50 states, 65 countries, every continent,” Johansen dreamed of seeing the 49 Pulse victims’ memories being honored in space. That may have seemed like a literal out-of-this-world goal, but then “a traveler from California” reached out to Johansen to say that it may be possible after all. “He didn’t give many details as to not get my hopes up. (He reached out around 6 months or so ago),” wrote Johansen. “Well, I received a call from him this past Friday saying it might happen. He knows Sir Richard and talked with him personally. I sent an overnight package of ribbons to this person and from then it’s been a few weeks…..until Friday’s call. But today it’s happening.”
Branson is the first billionaire to make the journey to space, but both Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and SpaceX founder Elon Musk have plans to follow in Branson’s small step for humankind.