Blue Origin owner and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos finally got to live his dream of riding a rocket to the edge of space.
Lifting off from West Texas aboard a suborbital New Shepard rocket shortly after 8 a.m. CT (6 a.m. PT/9 a.m. ET) on Tuesday, July 20, Blue Origin’s first-ever crewed launch included Bezos, his brother Mark, aviation pioneer Wally Funk who at 82 is now the oldest person to have traveled to space, and 18-year-old Dutchman Oliver Daemen who has become the youngest to achieve the same feat.
Precisely as planned, the New Shepard booster climbed to an altitude of around 47 miles (250,000 feet/76,200 meters) before releasing the capsule for its ride to just above the Kármán line, a boundary 62 miles (327,000 feet/100,000 meters) above Earth that’s widely considered to mark the edge of space. In this flight the capsule reached 66.5 miles (351,210 feet/107,048 meters).
At its apogee some seven times higher than a commercial passenger jet, the crew members were able to unbuckle from their seats and enjoy several minutes of weightlessness while taking in awesome views of Earth. The voyage was livestreamed from the ground, though no live pictures were shown from inside the capsule. However, in an audio feed the four passengers could be heard hooting and hollering as they reached the highest point of the journey and floated around in microgravity conditions. Video of the moment is likely to be released later.
Once safely back in their seats, the crew then descended to Earth for a parachute-assisted landing, with the capsule touching down about 10 minutes after launch. Minutes earlier, the reusable New Shepard booster also made a perfect upright landing back at the launch site.
Blue Origin’s successful mission paves the way for the launch of a space tourism service offering high-paying passengers the very same experience.
It’ll be competing with Virgin Galactic, whose billionaire owner Richard Branson recently rode on the company’s first fully crewed suborbital flight. A seat on a Virgin Galactic flight will cost $250,000, with a commercial service expected to launch next year. Blue Origin, whose flight reaches around 10 miles higher than Virgin Galactic’s though offers a similar experience in terms of views and weightlessness, is yet to reveal ticket prices for its own service.
Responding to critics who say the s0-called“billionaire space race” is simply about rich guys wasting large sums of money on an extravagant joy ride, Bezos said in a recent interview that if he and others can build the necessary infrastructure to reduce the cost of space travel, then more people will have the chance to use to space to create “amazing things that make life better here on Earth.”