Jeff Bezos set off on the edge of space on Tuesday morning with three passengers and landed safely in the Texas desert with a space company crew capsule. The NS-16 operation marked Blue Origin as the first to transport people and launched a commercial service for the company’s space tourism business. Flying Bezos, the world’s richest man who founded Blue Origin in 2000, sent a signal to potential space travelers that the company’s suborbital New Shepard rocket is safe to fly and open to business.
The six-story New Shepard amplifier rose Tuesday at 9:12 a.m. ET under clear skies from its remote-controlled location in Van Horn, Texas, the company’s rubber-shaped RSS The first step crew capsule attached on top. Bezos, his brother Mark, aviation legend Wally Funk, and Dutch teenager Oliver Daemen – who represented Blue Origin’s first paying customer – were tied inside the capsule. The crew capsule rose to a peak of 66 miles at three times the speed of sound before resigning from booster vaccination. Passengers experienced a brief sense of weightlessness and saw the curvature of the Earth at the edge of the atmosphere.
“My main task came true – I didn’t kick anyone,” Bezos exclaimed after the capsule touched down. “I was surprised at how easy the Zero-G was … it was like swimming.”
The mission became Funk, 82, the oldest man to reach space, and Daemen, 18, the youngest. Bezos has said launching into space has been his dream since he was a child. He became the second billionaire to ride his own rocket into space, after Richard Galansic founder Richard Branson flew the company’s SpaceShipTwo spacecraft on July 11th.
The new Shepard booster landed vertically on a concrete base five miles from where it was launched. Prior to Tuesday’s flight, Blue Origin had completed 15 test mats on its New Shepard rocket.
The company has not yet disclosed the price it will charge for each location and has refused to offer any ball location figures. The rocket’s most recent test flight in April was an “astronaut training exercise,” in which company executives role-flew as passengers in the moments before takeoff. “Every mission we’ve accomplished so far has prepared us to put people on board,” Steve Lanius, NS-16 air traffic controller at Blue Origin, told reporters on Sunday.
The passenger seat used by Daemen, a recent high school student in the Netherlands, was originally reserved for an unknown winner of an auction held by Blue Origin in June. The winner offered $ 28 million for the flight, but it changed the subsequent New Shepard trip “due to schedule conflicts.” Representatives from Blue Origin refused to identify the provider or extend scheduling issues. Daemen’s father, the founder and CEO of a Dutch private equity firm, had bought a seat in New Shepard’s next assignment in the fall and instead ran into the first flight. He gave the seat to his son.
Tuesday’s flight was a much-needed success for the company as it has to compete with other space companies such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Blue Origin had placed its much larger rocket system under development in Florida for the New Glenn Air Force on a multi-billion dollar launch program, but lost to SpaceX and its other rival, the United Launch Alliance. In April, NASA rejected the landing of Blue Moon, the man-proposed human moon. The agency decided to choose SpaceX’s Starship system.
Blue Origin will launch its New Shepard Launch Site One facility from Van Horn, a remote town in West Texas about 70 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border. The first iteration of the rocket began as a smaller concept called Goddard, which was introduced in 2006. The new Shepard was first launched in 2015, but crashed during a landing attempt. All other flights have been successful, giving Blue Origin the confidence to send its billionaire founder to the rocket launch operation.
“We know the vehicle is safe. If a vehicle isn’t safe for me, it’s not safe for anyone, ”Bezos told CNN in an interview Monday morning. Blue Origin engineers made some real-time assessments with some NS-16 passengers mid-flight, and post-mission data reviews provide information so that any changes to the passenger experience can be reported in the future. Experience from New Shepard flights speaks to Blue Origin’s other vehicles, such as the New Glenn and Blue Moon.