American billionaire Jeff Bezos on Tuesday fulfilled his dream of going into space aboard the first manned flight of his company, “Blue Origin,” which constitutes a new impetus for the emerging space tourism sector. Bezos, his brother Mark, aviation pioneer Wally Funk and the company’s first customer, 18-year-old Dutchman Oliver Daemen, spent a few minutes at an altitude of 107 kilometers, beyond the Karmann Line, the boundary between the Earth and space.
Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, succeeded Tuesday in realizing his dream of ascending to the The space Aboard his company’s first manned flight, Blue Origin, is giving an extra boost to the nascent space tourism industry.
The New Shepard missile, carrying a capsule carrying the four passengers, launched at 08:11 GMT, minutes later than the original launch time, from an isolated location in the West Texas desert, 40 kilometers from the city of Van Horn.
Along with Jeff Bezos, his brother Mark, 82-year-old aviation pioneer Wally Funk, and 18-year-old Blue Origin’s first customer, Dutch Oliver Damon, made the latter two of the oldest and youngest astronauts ever.
The “New Shepard” was launched into space at a speed exceeding three times the speed of sound using an engine running on liquid hydrogen and oxygen, that is, without carbon emissions. Then the capsule separated from the missile.
The new astronauts spent a few minutes at an altitude of 107 km, beyond the Karman Line (100 km altitude), which is internationally recognized as the boundary between the Earth and space spheres.
The astronauts were able to contemplate the deep blue and black planet camped out over the rest of the universe from large windows that account for a third of the cabin space. “It’s all black here,” Funk said, according to the live audio feed from the capsule.
After a few minutes of zero-gravity testing, the capsule descended in free fall before deploying three massive parachutes to descend smoothly into the desert after a flight of about ten minutes.
As they left the capsule, the four passengers, who were in good shape, were greeted with cries of joy from the Blue Origin teams, with Jeff Bezos wearing a cowboy hat. The missile spontaneously returned to a landing platform near the launch site.
Space race among the wealthy?
The mission came on the 52nd anniversary of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s first steps on the moon. Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson crossed the boundaries of the Earth’s atmosphere on July 11, ahead of the former Amazon CEO in what appears to be a duel between the rich in space.
But Bezos, 57, insisted that “this is not a competition.” “The first person to reach space was Yuri Gagarin, and that happened a long time ago,” he told NBC on Monday, referring to the Soviet cosmonaut who made the first manned flight into space in 1961.
“It’s about building a path into space for future generations to do amazing things there,” he added.
“Floating Space Colonies”
Bezos established Blue Origin in 2000, with the ambition that one day it could build floating space colonies with artificial gravity, where millions of people could work and live.
The company’s general manager, Bob Smith, said during a press conference Sunday that the “New Shepard” missile that will be launched is “only the beginning.” The company is currently working on developing a high-thrust orbital rocket called the New Glen, as well as a lunar lander, in hopes of securing a contract with the US space agency and its Artemis program, enabling it to become a major private sector partner for NASA.
Wally Funk was a member of the Mercury 13 Astronaut Training Project, but she was forced to give up her dream because of the gender discrimination that prevailed in the 1960s before she finally achieved it.
The airline plans to launch two more flights this year and “much more” starting in 2022.
“We have received 7,500 bids from more than 150 countries, and there is clearly a lot of interest,” Smith said during the press conference, adding that the first flights “are leaving at a very good price.”
Billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX will join the space race in September with an all-civilian orbital expedition aboard the Crew Dragon. SpaceX has also teamed up with Axiom to transport visitors to the International Space Station.