On July 20, Jeff Bezos, the richest person in the world and founder of Amazon, successfully completed his space journey on New Shepard, a rocket ship designed and built by his space company Blue Origin. The July 20 date for the New Shepard’s launch was scheduled to coincide with the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 crew landing on the moon.
Accompanying Bezos on his journey to space were three people – his brother Mark Bezos, 82-year old veteran pilot Wally Funk, and 18-year-old Dutch student Oliver Daemen. While Wally became the oldest man to enter space, Oliver was the youngest.
The four passengers were launched into the skies from a launch pad near Van Horn, West Texas at 09:12 EDT. Two minutes after takeoff, the capsule containing the crew detached from its rocket and sped upwards to cross the Karman Line, which is recognized as the boundary between sky and space.
The capsule reached an altitude of 66 miles (107 km) before starting its journey back to earth, eventually landing softly in the West Texas desert. The reusable 60-foot rocket had a controlled landing near the launch pad.
Shortly after the cubicle touched down safely, Blue Origin tweeted, “Booster touchdown! Third successful landing for this rocket and the first to carry four private citizens to space above the Karman Line.”
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Bezos’ flight did not enter the earth’s orbit. Instead, it only reached the edge of space. The crew did have a fantastic view of earth out of the large windows of the capsule and were able to experience around 4 minutes of weightlessness.
“It’s amazing. There are no words,” Bezos told NBC in a post-launch interview. “We have to build a road to space so that our kids and their kids can build a future… We live on this beautiful planet. You can’t imagine how thin the atmosphere is when you see it from space.”
The element of risk is generally high when it comes to planning and executing a space flight. Spacecrafts designed to carry humans to space have only been tested for a fraction of the times that commercial planes have been tested. Bezos’ New Shepard has now completed 15 trips.
With the maiden commercial space flight successfully completed, Blue Origin is aiming to firmly secure its position in the fast-growing space industry, which has been attracting much investor attention in recent years.
Though previously dominated by government agencies, more and more private entities are scrambling to get a piece of the space market. Morgan Stanley estimates the market to have exponential growth and to generate more than $1 trillion in revenues by 2040.
The key to lowering the costs of space travel would be the development of efficient reusable rockets that will ensure that multiple trips to space can be made with a single rocket. Blue Origin has not disclosed the price of future space trips.
Bezos believes that the recent New Shepard launch will help Blue Origin make space trips similar to commercial airline flights. Founded in 2000, Blue Origin currently employs more than 3,500 people with offices in multiple locations, such as Florida and California.