LONDON: As famous for his thrill-seeking lifestyle and publicity stunts as for his vast business empire, Richard Branson has set his sights on the stars as he prepares for liftoff on his first space flight. Before this weekend”s mission on Virgin Galactic”s SpaceShipTwo Unity, the avowed Star Trek fan attributed his drive and taste for adventure to his mother Eve, who died from Covid in January. “I”ve always been a dreamer. My mum taught me to never give up and to reach for the stars,” said the London-born 70-year-old. The Virgin group boss, whose net worth amounts to $5.7 billion (£4.1 billion, 4.8 billion euros) according to Forbes magazine, made his initial fortune in the record industry in the 1970s. He has since launched a string of successful companies in sectors as diverse as railways and mobile phones, as well as Virgin Atlantic airlines. But there have been plenty of missteps. His failures include a short-lived attempt at Formula One racing, a stab at the soft drinks market with Virgin Cola, and a wedding company called Virgin Bride, which some said existed only because of the name.