Jeff Bezos, the creator of the retail behemoth Amazon, is the wealthiest person on earth — and now, above it — as he entered space and stayed there in his own Blue Origin rocket for five minutes.
His own space exploration company Blue Origin launched into history today, with the retail maven aboard the first crewed rocket, named New Shepard in a tribute to space pioneer Alan Shepard.
The Tuesday morning space shot included the oldest and youngest people to have flown in space.
Just weeks after fellow billionaire Sir Richard Branson himself entered space as part of his Virgin Galactic launch, Bezos and his Blue Origin made his mark on private spaceflight.
They join fellow entrepreneur Elon Musk, who successfully launched his own space exploration company, SpaceX, launching a rocket and successfully touching down into the sea.
The Blue Origin capsule hit speeds of more than three times the speed of sound before it reached 80 kilometers (about 262,000 feet), which is considered the edge of space. The fortunate crew, including Mark Bezos, Jeff Bezos, Oliver Daemen and Wally Funk — the first woman to undergo Astronaut training back in the 1960’s — floated in near-her gravity for a couple minutes.
The capsule returned several minutes later and landed under a set of parachutes.
With a net worth of approximately $205 billion, Bezos, who is 57, is the only private space entrepreneur to ride as part of the first crewed flight of his company. He was accompanied by his brother Mark Bezos, 53.
Wally Funk, 82, and Oliver Daemen, at 18 the oldest and youngest humans to ever fly in space accompanied Bezos and his brother.
Daemen was a late addition to the crew after his seat, which was originally part of a public auction, was given up by an anonymous individual who bid $28 million to fly but was unable to attend the flight.
Daemen’s father, Joes, was also a bidder in the Blue Origin competition, and the teen had been scheduled to fly as part of its second crewed launch as a paying passenger.
Today’s historic space launch came on an extremely historic milestone, the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, which had first inspired Bezos to go into space.
The New Shepard mission is part of Bezos’ vision of creating “a future where millions of people are living and working in space to benefit Earth.”
Both Bezos’ rocket and the capsule that rides atop of it are reusable, and are capable of launching, landing, and relaunching multiple times. This rocket system serves as a precursor for Blue Origin’s other, even larger scale projects, including its orbital “New Glenn” rocket.
The New Glenn rocket booster is also designed to be reusable, with Bezos predicting that each one should be capable of launching and landing a total of 25 times. New Glenn, which is scheduled to take off sometime in late 2022, stands an imposing 320 feet tall.
It has been designed to be able to lift almost 50 tons of payload and get it into a low Earth orbit.
Bezos’ Blue Origin company also developed its own engines to power both its rockets, including the BE-3, BE-4, and BE-7.
Not to be outdone by other space exploration and space tourism pioneers, Bezos has the highest possible expectations, working on a crewed moon landing vehicle called the “Blue Moon.”
It is Bezos’ hope that one day, his company can deliver astronauts and cargo to the earth’s satellite.
Branson’s Virgin Galactic is Bezos’ only serious competition in the suborbital space tourism market, but Musk’s SpaceX is preparing to launch its first private space mission in September, called Inspiration4.
However, SpaceX sends its capsules further into space on multi-day flights, in what is now called “orbital tourism.”
While Bezos’ New Shepard rocket launches vertically from the ground, as the Apollo rockets once did, Branson’s Virgin Galactic’s “SpaceShipTwo” system is released into the air and then returns to Earth in a runway landing, like the space shuttle.
Another difference between the two systems is that the Blue Origin rocket ;launched autonomously, without human pilots at all, while Branson’s Virgin Galactic vehicles are piloted by two people.
Branson’s company expects to begin hosting paying customers sometime in 2022.
For this who are counting their pennies, the auction for the extra seat in the Blue Origin capsule reportedly netted $28 million, while a seat on a suborbital spacecraft is much less expensive.
Branson’s Virgin Galactic has so far sold seats for between $200,000 and $250,000.
The market for ordinary people– at least ordinary people with deep pockets– to go into space is just part of the new space economy, which is worth over $420 billion.
But showing that even 18-year-olds can enter space and have this thrill of a lifetime is a powerful attraction to this burgeoning industry.
Meanwhile, the usual jabs came Bezos’ way online as Trevor Noah, the host of the Daily Show, tweaked Bezos’ business practices as regards his Amazon employees. Previously, the billionaire Amazon CEO had been the center of an online petition asking for “Jeff Bezos to Stay in Space.”
Jeff Bezos was in space for 5 minutes—or as its known at the Amazon warehouse, your allotted break time for a 16-hour day
— The Daily Show (@TheDailyShow) July 20, 2021