Jeff Bezos Is About to Launch Blue Origin Into Space. How to Watch
Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man, is scheduled to join the astronaut club Tuesday aboard Blue Origin’s first crewed launch, another milestone in a banner month for the fledgling space tourism business.
The expedition comes only days after Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson nearly defeated Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in their battle of the billionaires.
However, Blue Origin’s goals are set higher: both physically in terms of the altitude to which its reusable New Shepard ship will travel in comparison to Virgin’s spaceplane, and also in terms of its future ambitions.
Bezos created Blue Origin in 2000 with the idea of one day establishing floating space colonies with artificial gravity, capable of housing and employing millions of people.
Today, the business is developing the New Glenn heavy-lift orbital rocket as well as a Moon lander for NASA’s Artemis program.
“They’ve had 15 successful New Shepard uncrewed flights and we’ve been waiting years to see when they’re going to start flying people,” Laura Forczyk, founder of space consulting business Astralytical, told AFP, adding that it is a “exciting time” for aficionados.
How to observe
New Shepard will launch on July 20 at 8:00 a.m. Central Time (1300 GMT) from Launch Site One, a remote location in western Texas about 25 miles (40 kilometers) north of the nearest town, Van Horn.
The event will be webcast live beginning an hour and a half before it begins on BlueOrigin.com, or you can watch it right here:
The wealthiest, the oldest, and the youngest
Bezos will be joined on the fully autonomous trip by pioneering female aviator Wally Funk, 82, who will become the company’s first paying customer and Dutch youngster Oliver Daemen, who will become the company’s youngest astronaut.
The four-man team is completed by Jeff Bezos’ brother Mark, a businessman who oversees the Bezos Family Foundation and volunteers as a fireman.
Jeff and his younger sibling are best friends, and Jeff documented the moment he invited his younger sibling to join him in a viral Instagram video last month.
Notably absent is the mysterious winner of a US$28 million auction for a seat, who the business stated had “scheduling conflicts” and will participate in a future voyage but has requested anonymity.
After lift-off, New Shepard will rocket to speeds above Mach 3 using a carbon-free liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen engine.
Soon after, the capsule detaches from the launcher, and the astronauts unbuckle and experience weightlessness.
The crew will spend a few minutes over the Karman line – the globally recognized border between Earth’s atmosphere and space – at 62 miles (100 kilometers) altitude, where the spacecraft reaches its max altitude of 65 miles (106 kilometers).
They will be able to view the planet’s curvature – as well as the inky blackness of the rest of the universe – through enormous windows that account for a third of the cabin’s surface area.
The rocket returns autonomously to a landing pad just north of the launch site, while the capsule freefalls back to Earth, where it deploys three massive parachutes and eventually a thruster to gently land in the west Texas desert.
Apart from the inaugural flight, little is known about Blue Origin’s future tourism intentions.
The company has a long history of secrecy, with its existence becoming known three years after it was founded. It thereafter adopted a “self-imposed silence” strategy until 2015.
Unlike Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin has not yet begun selling tickets – Daemen secured his seat via an auction method. The airline intends to add two additional flights this year and “many more” in 2022, according to AFP.
According to Forczyk, it will all depend on the level of demand produced by these early flights and the industry’s ability to recover from mishaps “which there inevitably will be, because spaceflight is inherently risky.”
SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk, will enter the battle in September with an all-civilian orbital mission aboard its Crew Dragon, and is partnering with another business, Axiom, to conduct space station visits.
Apart from tourism, Blue Origin aspires to overtake SpaceX as NASA’s primary private sector partner, and views New Shepard as a “sort of the stepping stone and also the way to make money along the way for the greater ambition,” according to Forczyk.
Who will be on Blue Origin’s inaugural crewed flight:
On Tuesday, Blue Origin will launch its first crewed trip, which will include four people crossing the Karman line, which divides the Earth’s atmosphere from space for the first time.
The following is a snapshot of the quartet of soon-to-be astronauts.
Jeff Bezos, the tycoon
Jeff Bezos, 57, will spend a few minutes on a spaceship developed by the firm he established in 2000, when he was still a single-digit billionaire.
Six years prior, Bezos founded Amazon.com, a small online bookshop based out of his garage. Bezos’ net worth is now projected to be in excess of $200 billion.
The younger brother, Bezos, Mark
Jeff Bezos has invited his brother Mark, a businessman who serves as the executive director of the Bezos Family Foundation and volunteers as a fireman.
The pair are closest friends, and Jeff documented the moment he shocked his younger brother, who is six years younger than him, by inviting him to join the expedition in an Instagram video that went viral last month.
Wally Funk was a trailblazer.
At 82, Wally Funk, a pioneering female pilot, is on the verge of becoming the world’s oldest astronaut, achieving a longstanding aspiration that was stymied by the early space era’s sexism.
Funk, who took her first flight lesson at the age of nine, excelled in the Mercury 13 project, which was meant to train female astronauts to the same standards as male astronauts, but was ultimately canceled.
She did, however, have an illustrious career in aviation, serving as the National Transportation Safety Board’s first female air safety investigator and as chief pilot at multiple flying schools.
Oliver Daemen, a Dutch adolescent
Oliver Daemen, 18 years old, is on track to become the world’s youngest astronaut. He owns a private pilot’s certificate and is an avid space enthusiast who will attend university this fall to study physics.
The Dutch kid is flying in place of the still-unidentified winner of a $28 million public auction, who has requested to skip this trip due to “scheduling conflicts,”
According to CNBC, Daemen’s ticket was paid for by his father, the CEO of a private equity firm.