A few weeks after stepping down as CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos will embark on a journey to the edge of space atop one of his own rockets, alongside his brother, in a mission that will fulfil a lifetime ambition.
On July 20, when the New Shepard lifts off for a suborbital trip, Bezos, his brother Mark, and the winner of an online auction for Blue Origin's nonprofit foundation will be on board. This will be the spacecraft's first passenger voyage. The date commemorates the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.
The flight will be a significant milestone for Blue Origin, which is competing for billions of dollars in NASA and Pentagon contracts with Elon Musk's SpaceX, which uses a more powerful rocket capable of carrying people and supplies into orbit.
It will also herald the long-awaited arrival of space tourism, as well as a major transition for Bezos, inevitably raising concerns about the risk to him and Amazon. Space travel remains a risky endeavour, even though the requirements for future private passengers are far from what the general public associates with space travel.
In an Instagram post on Monday, Bezos wrote, "I've dreamed about travelling to space since I was five years old." “On July 20, my brother and I will go on that expedition. My best friend and I embarked on the most incredible adventure. Ferociter Ferociter Ferociter Ferociter Ferociter Ferociter Ferocite
Blue Origin's motto is Graditum ferociter, a Latin term that Bezos translates as "step by step, ferociously."
Unlike NASA astronauts, Bezos and his fellow passengers will not be subjected to the same rigorous training that has distinguished space travel for so long. Passengers must walk seven flights of stairs to enter the capsule and must be able to sit for 90 minutes without access to a bathroom, according to Blue Origin. However, because all flying functions are controlled by computers, passengers will not be required to seize the controls.
Bezos would be the first of the billionaire "space barons" to travel to space with this mission. Neither Musk nor Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Galactic, have taken a ride on their firms' rockets. (The Washington Post is owned by Jeff Bezos.)
Bezos has been captivated by space for a long time. Even though he was only five years old at the time, he has described viewing the Apollo 11 moon landing as a "seminal" moment for him. He was an enthusiastic science fiction reader and a major "Star Trek" enthusiast as a child. He even gave one of his boys the middle name "Goddard" after Robert Goddard, the father of modern rocketry.
Blue Origin, based outside of Seattle, has successfully launched its New Shepard rocket and spacecraft into orbit 15 times. Virgin Galactic completed its third human spaceflight last month, and Branson, who turns 71 on July 18, has stated that he hopes to fly later this year. He told The Washington Post after the flight that he was actively preparing for the mission.
“One of the advantages of covid is that it allowed me to get in the best form I've been in since my 20s,” he stated. “It's incredible to have so much time to devote to getting your body ready for spaceflight, and I'm going to enjoy every minute of it.”
Branson thanked Bezos on Twitter on Monday, saying the two firms are “opening up access to Space — how extraordinary!”
Bezos created Blue Origin in 2000 and has described it as "the most significant job I'm doing" in recent years. The company's mission is to create the infrastructure that will allow mankind to reach space more frequently and reliably, allowing for "millions of people living and working in space."
His "single concern" is people in space, he has stated. I'd like to see people in space.”
The New Shepard is named after Alan Shepard, the first American to travel to the moon in 1961. New Shepard takes off straight up, passing 60 miles to reach the edge of space before crashing back to Earth, just like the original suborbital mission. The flight takes around 10 minutes in total, including a few minutes in space where you are weightless.
The New Shepard crew compartment can hold up to six people, each with their own seat and window - the largest window ever flown to space. The spacecraft, which will launch from a location near Van Horn, Texas, is equipped with handrails to aid in the brief weightlessness. Once in space, the spaceship will rotate using its thrusters to provide 360-degree views to passengers, which the business claims will “change how you experience the world.”
Blue Origin has not yet stated how much individual tickets would cost. Before closing sales, Virgin Galactic had charged as much as $250,000 per seat. Some analysts predict that when Virgin Galactic resumes sales later this year, the price will be closer to $500,000.
While some have criticised space tourism flights for the wealthy, Bezos has defended them, claiming that they are a good way for the company to practise flying and that a lot of new technologies have emerged from entertainment, such as how video games helped boost computing power.
During a 2016 forum at The Post, he noted, "Tourism often leads to new technologies." “And then those new technologies frequently recirculate and are applied in very crucial, utilitarian ways.”
Passengers must be able to withstand three times the force of gravity for two minutes during the ascent and five-and-a-half times the force of gravity for a few seconds during the descent, according to the rules for the online auction now underway to choose the third member of the crew, which is set to conclude Saturday.
Participants must also be between the ages of 5 and 6, with a height of 5 feet 4 inches and a weight of 110 to 223 pounds.
Blue Origin must demonstrate how it protects people and property on the ground in order to obtain a licence from the Federal Aviation Administration. However, similar to skydiving and bungee jumping, the passengers' safety is managed by a "informed consent" standard: riders must simply recognise the venture's significant dangers before blasting off.
Musk, who has been critical of Blue Origin's accomplishments in the past, declined to comment on Bezos' plans right away. SpaceX recently won a huge NASA contract to create a spacecraft capable of landing astronauts on the moon, defeating Blue Origin. The award is being challenged by Blue Origin, which teamed up with Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Draper.
In a statement to the Post concerning the contract, Musk said that the offer of Blue Origin, twice that of SpaceX, is "too high."
He added that Bezos "requires the complete operation of BO to succeed," wrote Musk. "I hope it will, frankly."
The auction for the third seat on the Blue Origin flight is intended to raise funds for Club for the Future, the company's non-profit that encourages students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Bezos will leave his position as CEO of Amazon on July 5th (he will stay on as executive chairman). When asked if Bezos had obtained authorization from Amazon's board of directors for the flight, spokesman Drew Herdener said no.
Bezos has put billions of dollars into Blue Origin ventures by selling Amazon stock.
In the Instagram video, Bezos' brother Mark remarked, "I wasn't even expecting him to mention that he was going to be on the first flight." “What a fantastic chance, not just to participate in this experience, but to do it with my best friend.”