Jeff Bezos blasts off into space on Blue Origin rocket


Jeff Bezos launches into space

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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos successfully completed his first trip to the edge of space aboard his rocket company Blue Origin’s New Shephard today – the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

The astronauts saw ‘life-changing’ views of Earth’ as they passed the Kármán Line’ at 2.16pm on Tuesday.

They flew to 350,000ft (106km) – more than 20km over Sir Richard Branson’s flight to space last week with Virgin Galactic.

An ecstatic statement from Blue Origin said after: ‘This first astronaut crew wrote themselves into the history books of space, opening the door through which many after will pass.’

Accompanying Bezos on the first automated human flight was his brother, Mark Bezos, and female pilot Wally Funk, 82, an avid aviator who trained with Nasa to go to space in 1961.

Blue Origin also auctioned off a seat on the flight to a mystery bidder, who paid $28 million for the privilege. That bidder dropped out due to a ‘scheduling conflict’ so the spot was taken by 18-year-old Oliver Daemen.

Daemen’s father had been in the bidding for the auction but hadn’t reached the top spot.

The company said Oliver Daemen was the first paying customer but did not disclose the price of his ticket. A family spokesperson said it was considerably less than the winning bid.

The New Shepard rocket, named after US astronaut Alan Shepard, landed near launchpad Launch Site One, in Texas, shortly after the capsule containing Bezos detached at 250,000ft (76km).

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The six-person capsule, after experiencing microgravity at the peak of the flight, then landed with parachutes in the desert.

Blue Origin’s first crewed flight comes just two weeks after Bezos stepped down as CEO of Amazon, replaced by Andy Jassy.

The world’s richest man rocketed 350,000ft into space (Picture: Blue Origin)
It is the first automated human flight (Picture: Blue Origin)
The thrilled astronauts hugged and shared champagne when they got back to Earth (Picture: Blue Origin)
The launch pad in Texas (Picture: BLUE ORIGIN/AFP via Getty Images)
Mark Bezos, Jeff Bezos, Wally Funk and Oliver Daemen inside the capsule (Picture: Blue Origin/AFP via Getty Images)

Why did Jeff Bezos fly to space?

Bezos has long spoke of his ambition to fly to space (Picture: Blue Origin/UPI/REX/Shutterstock)

Jeff Bezos announced in June he would fly to space with his rocket company, Blue Origin, just before Sir Richard Branson announced he would be going to space with his own rocket company, Virgin Galactic.

In an announcement video, Bezos said that space flight was something he had wanted to do ‘all my life’.

A 1982 interview with the billionaire, when he was still at school, records him saying he wanted ‘to build space hotels, amusement parks and colonies for 2 million or 3 million people who would be in orbit.’

Bezos reportedly told an Amazon employee some years later, in 1996, that he was ‘really interested in space exploration, but the truth is, it’s some number of years off’.

Still, Bezos pushed ahead with his space exploration vision, and founded Blue Origin in 2000, after watching and being inspired by the rocketry biopic October Sky.

However, it has only been in the past few years, as Elon Musk’s SpaceX grew and Bezos became less directly involved with Amazon, that Blue Origin became more active.

One reason for Sir Richard Branson flying to space was to show customers riding a Virgin Galactic flight is safe and to attract potential future customers.

While Blue Origin doesn’t have the commercial model that Virgin Galactic does, opting for satellite launches and customer payloads, the image of Bezos riding on his own company’s rockets will still be encouragement to investors thinking about putting money in the venture.

Blue Origin has also floated the idea of regular space tourism flights, like Branson’s company, which a Bezos-led test flight could help sell.

The billionaire and his brother Mark board ahead of their scheduled flight (Picture: via Reuters)
Touchdown! (Picture: Sky News)
The group saw ‘life-changing’ views of Earth, Blue Origin said (Picture: AP)

How did Blue Origin fly Jeff Bezos to space?

The Blue Origin rocket will fly in four stages. (Picture: Getty)

Jeff Bezos flew to space on Blue Origin’s New Shepard, a reusable rocket that was explicitly designed for the job.

It consisted of a 60ft (18m) rocket, with a six-person capsule resting atop it. The rocket had air brakes, bidirectional rockets and landing gears that meant it could both take off and land.

The flight mission had four broad stages.

Both the capsule and booster rocket took off vertically until New Shepard reached around 250,000ft (76km). From there, the capsule detached and boosted itself to about 350,000ft (106km).

The booster rocket fell and landed around two miles from the launchpad, followed by the capsule which gently parachuted back to the desert floor

The capsule, which can take up to six people, is a reusable component also.

Though this is the first time Blue Origin has flown a crewed rocket to space, the New Shepard has undergone 15 test flights without passengers. In April, a crew rehearsed boarding and leaving the capsule.

Blue Origin haven’t suffered any of the dramatic crashes that SpaceX have with some of their test rockets, although in 2016 the company did intentionally crash one of their rockets as a test.

Can anyone fly with Blue Origin?

Jeff Bezos is the first but probably not the last to go to space on a Blue Origin rocket (Picture: Getty)

While the identity of the mystery bidder is unknown, the requirements for whoever won the bid gives some clues as to who can fly with Blue Origin.

According to Blue Origin’s website, the winning bidder needs to have a height from five feet to 6-foot-four and a weight from 110 to 223 pounds.

Blue Origin astronauts must also reportedly be comfortable with walking at heights of over 70 feet above ground level, be able to climb the launch tower (seven flights of stairs) in less than 90 seconds, and fasten their own harness in less than 15 seconds.

The website also mentions being comfortable with large amounts of pressure bearing down for several minutes during ascent and descent.

Astronauts that fly with Blue Origin need to arrive at the Texas launch site four days before launch for safety training.

One thing the astronauts didn’t need is a space suit – because the capsule was fully pressurised, they were able to sit in New Shephard in regular clothes, a far cry from the classic Nasa style spacesuits of yore.

While Blue Origin hasn’t announced how regularly or when it’ll be running space flights to the general public, it has indicated ‘a couple more crewed flights before the end of the year.’

Although the winning ticket was auctioned off for $28 million, Blue Origin hasn’t announced how much ticket prices for future flights might be.

Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic has reportedly priced its one-hour space trips at $250,000 per seat.


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