Bezos leaps to the edge of space and returns to Blue Origin’s first crewed flight

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Jeff Bezos, the ex-CEO of Amazon, 57 years old and founder of the space tourism company Blue Origin, finally has his astronaut wings. Under the picturesque dawn sky of the West Texas desert, a New Shepard rocket has come to life, 52 years to the day since Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin imprinted their boot prints on the moon.

At the top of the rocket, enclosed in a capsule shaped like a gumball, Bezos, his brother Mark, aviation legend Wally Funk and Oliver Daemen, an 18-year-old client left towards the invisible and arbitrary border separating Earth and space as part of the NS-16 mission. About 3 minutes after takeoff, the crew experienced weightlessness for the first time and touched down on the edge of space. Boos and screams erupted from the booth and static calls of “this is great” permeated the live broadcast.

In this fleeting moment, they joined a new exclusive club for “commercial astronauts” which, before the mission, numbered only 10. The total number of people who have been in space is only 570. Both lists now have two Bezos brothers, a Funk and a Daemen in their ranks.

The crew of four broke away from their seats after the New Shepard rocket lifted their capsule beyond the stratosphere. The capsule reached a maximum altitude – or apogee – of about 66 miles (about 106 kilometers) in the sky. And then, almost as fast as he was going up, he began his rapid descent to dry land.

Simultaneously, the New Shepard rocket that had transported the capsule to the edge of infinity fell calmly back to Earth. It landed gently in the West Texas desert about 7 minutes after takeoff.

The crew of NS-16, the first crewed flight of Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. (LR) Mark Bezos, Jeff Bezos, Oliver Daemen, Wally Funk.

Blue Origin

Approximately 8 minutes and 30 seconds after the flight, the capsule parachutes deployed and caused the capsule to land safely.

“I’m incredibly good,” Bezos said after touchdown, responding to a check from CapCom. “Best day of my life.”

The historic achievement comes just 11 days after Richard Branson’s successful flight aboard the Virgin Galactic space plane on July 9.

While a lot was made of Bezos’ trip – and, of course, he funded the effort – but it was a truly significant occasion for 82 years. Mary “Wally” Funk, who has dreamed of going to space longer than Bezos is alive. Funk volunteered to participate in the private Women in Space program in the 1960s, undergoing the same physiological assessments as America’s first male astronauts. But she could never fly. The program was boxed in 1962 and Funk’s space dreams were put on hold. Today, she has become the oldest person to visit space.

Sitting next to her on the trip, but on the other side of the generational divide was 18-year-old Oliver Daemen. His father, who owns a Dutch private equity firm, made an offer for a seat in New Shepard, but pulled out as the value rose. When the yet to be announced winner of the auction withdrew due to “schedule conflicts”, Daemen got the call.

Deployment of parachutes on the crew capsule.

Blue Origin

Edge of infinity

Prior to launch, there had been icy back and forth between Bezos’ Blue Origin and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic.

The latter company took its billionaire founder to a height of 53 miles (86 kilometers) 11 days ago, earning Branson his own pair of commercial astronaut wings. However, Blue Origin made a slightly sarcastic tweet about where space in fact begins and seemed to suggest that maybe Branson hadn’t reached “space” after all.

“Only 4% of the world recognizes a lower limit of 80 kilometers or 50 miles as the start of space. New Shepard flies over both borders. One of the many advantages of flying with Blue Origin” the company said on July 9.

Wherever the limit is set, the experience of being up there was not much different for the two billionaires, and feuds were largely left aside before the launch.

And the Earth?

Speaking on NBC’s Today ahead of the launch, Bezos noted criticism that he and Branson used their vast wealth to leave Earth exactly when great wealth is needed to tackle some of the planet’s greatest problems.

“Of course people said, ‘Look, we have so many problems here on Earth,’ and they’re right,” Bezos said. “And we have to do both, and we’ve always done both.”

“We have to focus on the here and now, and we have to look to the future, so we are building a road to space so that Oliver’s generation can blow us away with amazing things and make life better here. on earth.”

Landing!

Blue Origin

Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin both plan to conduct scientific work in sub-orbit. The companies will allow researchers to send payloads into microgravity, allowing for brief experiments. As the launch rate increases and more flights become available, repeated access to microgravity could be a more cost-effective way to test things like gravitational biology and fluid physics than to send out payloads to the International Space Station.

And the experience itself, looking at the curvature of the Earth from above the ground, will it change billionaires?

“I hope the new era of space tourism will allow the rich and powerful to see Earth from orbit, experiencing a profound shift in perspective as they see the fragility of our blue marble suspended in the void,” said said Alan Duffy, an astrophysicist at Swinburne University and senior scientist at the Royal Institution of Australia.

What’s next for the billionaire space race?

We’re unlikely to see Branson or Bezos flying again anytime soon (although there is a chance Musk could do it), but now a new race begins: What billionaire’s space tourism company can bring the first crew of paying customers to the edge of space?

Ticket prices are way too high for the majority of people, although Virgin Galactic is said to have around 600 customers lined up, including Musk and Funk. Before closing ticket sales in 2014 due to a fatal accident, a seat in his space plane was selling for up to $ 250,000.

Bezos and Blue Origin have yet to announce the price of a seat on New Shepard but, with the success of the first crewed flight, it won’t be long before we find out.

It looks like Virgin Galactic has its nose ahead here, although it has said it will make two more flights before putting people into space. But you can count the number of successful flights for Galactic on the one hand, as Bezos’ Blue Origin now has 16 top-down rides on its ledger. Before the space tourism industry really takes off, safety and consistency will be key to ensuring customers are ready to board rockets.

Blue Origin has two more flights scheduled for this year but has not disclosed when they are expected to take place.

But that’s really the whole point, the very beginning of commercial space travel. We haven’t even mentioned Musk’s SpaceX yet. In September, Billionaire businessman, 38, Jared Isaacman boards Crew Dragon capsule, on top of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, to orbit for three days. Then there is Yusaku Maezawa, the Japanese entrepreneur who announced he would take eight artists traveling around the moon in a SpaceX spacecraft in 2023. Before that, however, he is heading to the International Space Station aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.



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