Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin flight soars to the edge of space

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin flight is a 1st

Jeff Bezos soared past the edge of space on Tuesday, July 20, 2021. It was the first launch of Blue Origin’s New Shepard reusable launch vehicle with humans aboard. Liftoff took place at 9:12 a.m. EDT from Blue Origin’s Launch Site One in West Texas. On board the ship were, in addition to Bezos, his brother, Mark Bezos, Wally Funk, an 82-year-old aviation pioneer, and Oliver Daemen, an 18-year-old student from the Netherlands. Thus the launch set a record for both the oldest and youngest person to fly to space. Bezos’ feat came just nine days after another billionaire, Richard Branson, also flew to the edge of space, on a similar sub-orbital trajectory. Broadcasts will continue after the rocket’s landing, Blue Origin said in a statement on July 12. The company’s official Twitter feed will also be sharing mission updates throughout the day today.

Bezos’ flight was live-streamed on Blue Origin’s website.

The July 20 date falls on the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969.

A typical New Shepard spaceflight lasts 11 minutes, as did the July 20 flight.

Bezos, who founded Amazon and owns the Washington Post, founded Blue Origin back in 2000. The company’s goal is in part space tourism, which is surely getting a boost from Bezos’ well-publicized flight, as well as from the suborbital flight of Richard Branson via Virgin Galactic on July 11.

Two balding men in jeans and dark shirts, seated on a stage, discussing Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin flight.
Mark Bezos, left, and Jeff Bezos. Mark, who is 6 years Jeff’s junior, joined his brother on Blue Origin’s July 20 flight. Image via Amy Harris/ Invision/ AP/ Business Insider.

Blue Origin’s July 20 crew

For the July 20 Blue Origin flight, Bezos’ younger brother Mark Bezos was riding along.

With them was Wally Funk, whom Bezos personally invited to fly. In 1961, Funk and a group of female pilots formed Mercury 13 and passed many of the same tests their male colleagues took. But the program ended up canceled, and NASA never sent Funk to space.

Also flying on July 20 was a teenager named Oliver Daemen, the 18-year-old son of Dutch equity company Somerset Capital Partners’ CEO, Joes Daemen. The younger Daemen replaced the anonymous $28 million (USD) bidder who initially won the New Shepard seat at auction.

In the July 15 Blue Origin statement, the company said the still-anonymous bidder:

… has chosen to fly on a future New Shepard mission due to scheduling conflicts.

Thus Daemen became Blue Origin’s first paying customer. Apparently, his father was:

… a participant in the auction and had secured a seat on the second flight.

At age 18, Daemen is now the youngest person to fly to space. He traveled with Funk, age 82, who is now the oldest “astronaut.”

A bald man, and a gray-haired woman, with their arms around each other, with big triumphant smiles.
Billionaire Jeff Bezos – founder of Amazon in 1994 and Blue Origin in 2000 – invited Wally Funk, age 82, to join him on his rocket company’s first human spaceflight on July 20. Funk will become the oldest person to go to space. Image via Blue Origin.
A smiling, clean-shaven young man, standing in front of a body of water.
The 4th and final crew member for Blue Origin’s July 20 flight is Oliver Daemen, age 18. His father, Joes Daemen, is is founder and CEO of Somerset Capital Partners. The younger Daemen will become the youngest person to go to space. Image via Blue Origin.

The billionaire space race

In case you didn’t know, Jeff Bezos is said to be the richest man in the world. And we’ve seen some billionaire vs. billionaire debate sparking up in the days leading up to Bezos’ launch to space. On July 11, another billionaire founder of a private space company – Richard Branson of Virgin Galactic – successfully soared to about 50 miles (80 km) high. That’s the altitude recognized by NASA, the U.S. military, and the Federal Aviation Administration as the edge of space.

In the days leading up to Branson’s July 11 flight, Blue Origin posted a colorful chart (shown below) to the company’s Twitter feed, highlighting some differences between its rocket and that of Virgin Galactic.

The chart compares the rockets’ vehicle types down to their window sizes. It highlights the altitude to which the rockets will fly. New Shepard will launch Bezos and friends past the Kármán line, the 62-mile (100 km) mark internationally recognized as the boundary of space.

Space for “all”

Nevertheless, the billionaire space race has prompted a broader discussion about the accessibility of space tourism as the industry grows. During the broadcast on July 11, Branson said:

We’re here to make space accessible to all.

But a Virgin Galactic seat costs $250,000. Blue Origin has not yet revealed per-seat pricing, although it’s likely to be in the six-figure range, too.

Bottom line: Private spaceflight company Blue Origin successfully launched its New Shepard rocket on July 20, 2021, with the company’s founder, Jeff Bezos, aboard. Check Blue Origin’s website where broadcasts are scheduled to continue throughout the day on July 20.

Read more from EarthSky: The billionaire space race and the Karman line

Via Blue Origin

July 20, 2021

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