Richard Branson is finally close to riding his rocket ship.

After a decade in which he repeatedly announced his imminent departure into space as the first passenger aboard Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, only to then call it off, it seems that the ship is ready.

And Branson, ever the showman, aims to time his ride to coincide with the most epochal date in the history of space travel. Earlier this year he announced his intention to lift off on or close to July 20, the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11’s landing on the moon.

That would certainly be an act of chutzpah. The Apollo program went from conception to the moon landing in eight years. Branson originally promised his ship would be ready for lift-off with passengers in 2009, and we’re still waiting.

Technically, Virgin Galactic is no moonshot. It is a project of far lower ambition and aimed at a fundamentally frivolous purpose. For years it has been way overhyped.

In April 2013 I, along with other reporters who followed the Galactic saga wrote, “The dawn of space tourism may be only days away…”

It wasn’t, and the whole thing began to feel like one long tease propelled more by hope than rocket fuel.

SpaceShipTwo remains essentially an experiment with risks attached.

But in the last nine months Galactic has looked a lot more credible. On December 13 the latest version of SpaceShipTwo, named Unity, finally broke through the threshold height at which NASA and U.S. Air Force pilots can claim their astronaut wings, 264,000 feet or nearly 62 miles.

Unity reached an apogee of 271,684 feet.

Then, on February 22, on its fifth rocket-powered test flight, Unity reached nearly 300,000 feet and a top speed of Mach 3.04—more than three times the speed of sound. That was also the first time the rocket engine had run for its full burn.