Blue Origin’s New Shepard Crew capsule is designed to send up to six people to the edge of space and back. (Blue Origin Photoillustration)
You had to know that the first vacant space on a spacecraft built by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space company, founder of Amazon, would be sold online – but a charity auction is an added twist.
After a week of construction, Blue Origin today unveiled an auction site selling a reservation for the New Shepard suborbital spacecraft for its first flight on July 20th with crew. This date is the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
To expand the sense of history, today marks the 60th anniversary of Project Mercury’s first manned spaceflight – a suborbital voyage undertaken in 1961 by New Shepard’s namesake, NASA astronaut Alan Shepard.
“In the decades since then, fewer than 600 astronauts have been in space above the Kármán Line to see the boundless earth and the thin limb of our atmosphere,” said Blue Origin in today’s announcement, referring to the 100-kilometer line, the internationally recognized boundary of space. “They all say this experience changes them.”
According to Blue Origin, passengers will train for three days before boarding the New Shepard crew capsule and departing from the company’s West Texas spaceport. You will experience a few minutes of weightlessness and an astronaut’s perspective of the curved earth beneath the black sky of space.
At the end of an approximately 10-minute flight, the crew capsule will settle for a parachute-assisted touchdown, while the rocket booster will perform its own autonomous landing separately.
Blue Origin has been subjecting its autonomously controlled suborbital New Shepard system to unscrewed testing for nearly six years. After last month’s test flight, Bezos said it was “time” to think about getting people on board.
“We’re ready to go,” said Ariane Cornell, director of astronaut and orbital sales at Blue Origin, at a news conference today. Cornell told GeekWire that July’s flight would be viewed as an operational mission rather than a test flight.
There are six seats in the crew capsule, and Blue Origin employees or VIPs will likely occupy at least some of those seats. For the first flight, only one of the seats is held for a paying passenger.
After registering for the auction, potential space fliers can submit sealed online bids. The bids will be unsealed starting May 19, and the process will move to a live online auction on June 12 at 1:00 p.m. ET (10:00 a.m. PT).
Proceeds from the award will be donated to Club for the Future, Blue Origin’s nonprofit educational foundation.
The winner must be at least 18 years old, weigh between 110 and 223 pounds, be between 5 feet and 6 feet 4 tall, climb seven flights of stairs in less than 90 seconds, and handle up to 5.5 G of acceleration in flight . You must also sign a declaration of consent acknowledging the risks and a document waiving the right to assert claims against anyone involved in the flight.
Last week’s announcement that Blue Origin would start selling tickets sparked days of price speculation. One report suggested the purchase price would be “far north” of $ 500,000.
That would be twice what early buyers paid for reservations on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo suborbital spacecraft. (Virgin Galactic says the price will go up for the next round of sales.)
The $ 500,000 plus figure raised some eyebrows, but considering only one seat will be auctioned, that forecast is likely on the money.
“The sky’s the limit,” said Cornell.
According to Cornell, Blue Origin plans to launch a few additional crewed flights between July and the end of the year, but had nothing to report on the plan for selling seats for those trips.