CAP CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) – Surpassing his fellow billionaire daring, Jeff Bezos will explode into space next month when his company Blue Origin performs his first flight with a crew.
The founder of Amazon, 57, and the richest person in the world according to Forbes’ estimate, will become the first person to fly his own rocket in space.
Bezos announced his intentions on Monday and, in an even bolder show of confidence, said he would share the adventure with his younger brother and best friend, Mark, an investor and volunteer firefighter. He said it will make it more meaningful.
Blue Origin’s first flight with people on board – after 15 successful test flights of its reusable New Shepard rockets – will take place on July 20, the date chosen because it is the 52nd anniversary of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s first moon landing. of Apollo 11.
The Bezos brothers will be launched from West Texas alongside the winner of an online charity auction. It’s unclear who else might fill the six-person capsule during the 10-minute flight that will take its passengers to an altitude of about 65 miles, just beyond the edge of space, and then return to Earth. without going into orbit.
Bezos said he had dreamed of traveling to space since he was 5 years old.
“Seeing Earth from space changes you. It changes your relationship with this planet, with humanity. It’s one Earth,” Bezos said in an Instagram post. “I want to take this flight because it’s something I’ve wanted to do my whole life. It’s an adventure. It’s a big deal for me.”
His brother added, “I didn’t even expect him to say he would be on the first flight, and then when he asked me to go with him, I was just stunned.”
Bezos will step down as CEO of Amazon 15 days before takeoff. He announced months ago that he wanted to devote more time to his rocket company as well as his newspaper, The Washington Post.
His stake in Amazon stands at $ 164 billion, which will make him by far the richest person to ever fly into space.
Until now, thrill-seeking billionaires have had to buy capsule seats from the Russian Space Program or, more recently, Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which is planning its first private flight in September. These orbital journeys, which typically last several days, along with visits to the International Space Station, have cost tens of millions of dollars per person.
The flight of Blue Origin’s New Shepard capsule, named after Alan Shepard, the first American in space, will be five minutes shorter than Shepard’s landmark suborbital journey aboard a Mercury capsule in 1961.
But Blue Origin’s capsule is 10 times more spacious with a huge window in every seat – the largest windows ever built for a spaceship, in fact.
The company, based in Kent, Washington, is working on the development of an orbital rocket named after John Glenn, the first American to circle the earth.
The Bezos flight will officially launch the company’s space tourism activities. The company has yet to start selling seats to the public or even announcing a ticket price for the short trips, which offer around three minutes of weightlessness.
Blue Origin’s launch and landing site is located 120 miles southeast of El Paso, near the Mexican border. Once the capsule is separated, the rocket returns to Earth and lands upright, to be reused. The capsule, also reusable, descends under parachutes.
Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson – a ‘disgusting tie-breaker’ daredevil of rock climbing and ballooning – also plans to travel to space aboard his own air-launched rocket later this year after another test flight over New Mexico. Virgin Galactic completed its third crewed space test flight two weeks ago; the company does not want him to go on board until the machine has proven itself.
Branson, 70, on Monday praised Bezos, a docile and bookish Wall Streeter by comparison. Branson tweeted that their two companies “are opening up access to space – this is amazing!”
Like Blue Origin, Branson’s company will send paying customers to the lower parts of space on ascending and descending flights, not Earth orbiting towers.
Musk’s SpaceX has already transported 10 astronauts to the NASA space station and sold several seats on private flights. Musk himself has yet to commit to going to space, although he has repeatedly said he wants to die on Mars, but not on impact.
What a remarkable opportunity not only to have this adventure, but to be able to do it with my best friend.
Until recently, Blue Origin had been criticized by some for proceeding too slowly, especially compared to SpaceX. Bezos adopted the company’s motto “Gradatim ferociter”, Latin for “Step by step, ferociously”, and featured it on the so-called lucky cowboy boots he wears during space launches of his company.
“Blue Origin, admirably, has gone about it with care and built a reliable and less ambitious vehicle and is likely to be successful,” said Vanderbilt University Aerospace Design Lab Director Amrutur Anilkumar in a report. -mail Monday. “It’s worth noting that Bezos feels comfortable taking his brother for a ride; that’s probably the best exclamation for safety and reliability.”
While the Blue Origin and SpaceX capsules are fully automated, Virgin Galactic has two pilots in the cockpit for each space flight. A 2014 accident left one dead and another seriously injured.
As for the seat up for auction, Blue Origin opened the online auction on May 5, the 60th anniversary of Shepard’s flight. It’s up to $ 2.8 million.
The auction ends on Saturday, with the winning amount going to Club for the Future, Blue Origin’s educational foundation, which encourages young people to pursue a career in science. Almost 6,000 people from 143 countries participated in the auction.
In an Instagram video posted by Bezos, Mark Bezos’ reaction when his brother invited him on the flight was, “Are you serious? … Seriously?”
“What a remarkable opportunity not only to have this adventure, but to be able to do it with my best friend,” said the younger brother.
Business writer AP MIchelle Chapman contributed to this story.
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