Fully automatic capsule, unlike Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic rocket plane asked two pilots to take him to space and back a week ago.
Branson’s advice? “Just sit back, relax, look out the window, just absorb the view outside,” he said on CBS’s “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”
Rocket and rocket differences aside, billionaire rivals are gearing up to launch anyone willing to shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars for a brief spaceflight.
A brief look at what awaits Bezos and his passengers:
BEZOS ON THE BOARD
Bezos created Blue Origin in 2000, a move that he says made his high school girlfriend observe, “Jeff started Amazon just to have enough money to make Blue Origin – and I can’t prove her. that’s wrong.”
He said he funds the rocket company by selling $1 billion in Amazon stock a year. Bezos made a space error at the age of 5 while watching Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin land on the moon on July 20, 1969.
He chose the 52nd anniversary for his own debut.
Remembered by space history, Bezos named his New Shepard rocket after Alan Shepard, the first American in space, and his larger New Glenn rocket, still in development, after John Glenn, the first American in orbit.
Bezos, 57, who also owns The Washington Post – stepped down as CEO of Amazon earlier this month and last week donated $200 million to the Smithsonian Institution to renovate the Air and Space Museum National and established an education center.
“To see Earth from space, it changes you. It changes your relationship with this planet, with humanity,” he said. “That’s what I want to do all my life.”
WHO IS FLYING
Bezos personally invited two of his passengers – 50-year-old brother Mark, an investor and volunteer firefighter, and female aviation pioneer Wally Funk. Joining them will be Oliver Daemen, the last-minute fill-in for the winner of the $28 million charity auction, who had a scheduling conflict. At 82, Funk will become the oldest person in space. She was among 13 female pilots – known as the Mercury 13 – who performed similar tests in the early 1960s with NASA’s Mercury 7 astronauts, but were banned because of their gender.
“Final!” Funk exclaimed when invited to sit with Bezos. For Dutch Daemen – who at 18 will become the youngest person in the space – his tycoon father placed a bid for the capsule in June, but gave up when the price skyrocketed.
Blue Origin called just over a week ago, after the unspecified auction winner was moved to a later flight. The teen space fan, starting college this fall, is Blue Origin’s first paying customer; no word on his fare.
ROCKET AND CAPSULE
While Bezos won’t be the first boss to go into space on his own rocket, he can claim to be involved in his company’s first human launch. He’s also aiming higher, with an anticipated altitude of about 66 miles (106 kilometers) versus Branson’s 53.5 miles (86 kilometers).
Blue Origin’s 60-foot (18-meter) New Shepard rocket will accelerate into space at three times the speed of sound, or Mach 3, before detaching from the capsule and returning to a vertical landing .
The passengers will experience three to four minutes of weightlessness, before their capsule parachutes into the desert just 10 minutes after takeoff. 5 minutes less than Alan Shepard’s 1961 Mercury flight. Blue Origin, though, offers the largest windows ever built for a spacecraft.
Bezos bought the barren, desolate land to launch and land rockets. The nearest town is Van Horn, population 1,832.
Blue Origin has completed 15 test flights into space since 2015, carrying experimental objects, children’s postcards and Mannequin Skywalker, the company’s passenger counter. Except for the enhanced landing problem on the first trip, all demos were successful. One rocket ended up flying seven times and another five. The capsules are also recycled.
Blue Origin intentionally canceled a few flights after the plane took off to test the emergency exit system on board. The pace seems to be slow compared to the competition, and many people wonder why Blue Origin – whose motto is Gradatam Ferociter, or ferocious step by step – took so long to launch to the public.
Headquartered in Kent, Washington, the company has been fairly tight-lipped about its launch plans. Bezos finally announced it was “time” after its final test flight in April, a costume rehearsal that saw mock passengers climb onto the train before takeoff. The rocket and bullet to be used on Tuesday have flown twice before.
Blue Origin is expected to open ticket sales soon after Bezos flies and has already lined up several other auctioneers. The company did not disclose the cost of a trip. The fourth seat on the upcoming flight has been auctioned for $28 million.
As a result, nineteen space education and advocacy groups are receiving $1 million each, with the rest going to be used by Blue Origin’s Club for the Future for its own educational efforts.
While the tiny New Shepard is designed to put people on short flights to the edge of space, the massive New Glenn will be capable of transporting cargo and eventually crew into orbit from Cape Canaveral, Florida, possibly starting late next year. Blue Origin also has its eyes on the moon. Its proposed lunar lander, Blue Moon, lost out to SpaceX’s Starship in NASA’s recent commercial competition to develop the technology to send the next astronauts to the moon.
Blue Origin is challenging another competitor for contract awards.
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