Jeff Bezos, Blue Origin rocket touch down after historic spaceflight

  • Blue Origin wants to send tourists past the so-called Karman Line.
  • The billionaires race for space is big business.
  • The trip is the culmination of a 20 year journey for Bezos with his company Blue Origin.

VAN HORN, Texas – Billionaire Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and his Blue Origin missile crew realized their dreams on Tuesday, taking off from the West Texas desert, reaching space, and returning to Earth minutes later with a gentle parachute landing.

“Happy Happy Happy!” said Jeff Bezos from space. “You have a very happy crew up here!”

The crew of the New Shepard rocket were treated to spectacular views of the earth and three to four minutes of weightlessness. The booster missile touched down gently, landing about seven minutes after liftoff. The capsule with the astronauts landed with parachutes and an “air cushion” that was generated by retro rockets a little more than 10 minutes after take-off.

“The best day ever,” said Jeff Bezos after landing, who was greeted by a sea of ​​cheering Blue Origin employees and others on the company premises.

Also on board were his brother Mark, the longtime advocate of women in space, Mary Wallace “Wally” Funk, and Oliver Daemen, the de facto winner of an auction for the fourth seat of the capsule. Funk, 82, is now the oldest person in space. Daemen, 18, is the youngest. The cheering travelers stepped out of the capsule and were hugged by family and friends.

Tuesday’s flight marked the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Bezos not only embarked on a quick voyage into space, but also hoped for a profitable business that the richest man in the world is hoping for. Blue Origin, Bezos’ space tourism company, is planning two more flights this year alone.

“Congratulations to all of the Blue team, past and present, for reaching this historic moment in space history,” tweeted Blue Origin. “This first crew of astronauts inscribed themselves in the history books of space and opened the door through which many will later pass.”

Richard Branson and his crew at Virgin Galactic historically sped to the edge of space last week. Bezos and his Blue Origin team say they hurt it.

It’s the 16th flight for New Shepard, but the first to include people. Bezos and Blue Origin were a little dismissive of Branson’s flight nine days ago, saying that Virgin Galactic’s highest altitude of 83.5 miles did not reach true space.

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NASA, the Air Force, the Federal Aviation Administration and some astrophysicists assume that the boundary between atmosphere and space begins 80 kilometers in altitude. For example, passengers on Virgin Galactic tourist trips who can reach a maximum altitude of about 55 miles are given astronaut wings.

New Shepard flew up about 66 miles. This is beyond what is known as the Karman Line, 62 miles above Earth, which is recognized by most international aerospace associations as the threshold to space.

“Only 4% of the world recognize a floor of 50 miles or 50 miles as the beginning of space,” tweeted Blue Origin prior to Branson’s flight. “New Shepard flies across both borders. One of the many benefits of flying with Blue Origin.”

The billionaires race for space is big business. Blue Origin employs thousands across multiple states and campuses. Virgin Galactic has more than 800 employees. Both companies hope to sell tickets for $ 200,000 per seat or more.

Despite the competition, Blue Origin and Bezos posted a congratulatory message on social media after Branson landed. Branson followed suit on Tuesday.

“Well done Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos, Mark, Wally and Oliver. Impressive! ”Branson said on Twitter after touching down. “Warm greetings to all of my crew and the entire Virgin Galactic team.”

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New Shepard, a fully automated 60-foot rocket and capsule, is primarily designed for space tourism thanks to automated flight systems, large windows, and a modern interior. After take-off, the booster returns to the vertical landing, while the capsule hovers briefly in space and then touches down with the help of parachutes near the launch site.

Branson, 71, and a crew of two pilots and three mission specialists were lifted to an altitude of more than eight miles by the aircraft VMS Eve, named after Branson’s mother. Live video then showed the release of the VSS Unity spacecraft between the twin hulls of the mothership, using rocket power to fly to the somewhat controversial frontier of space.

Like Branson, Bezos, 57, offers his New Shepard vehicle the ultimate endorsement after being the first to fly it.

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For Bezos, the Amazon founder, whose net worth is estimated at $ 177 billion, the short trip was the culmination of a 20-year journey with his company Blue Origin. The flight was the company’s most famous and defining moment.

Mark Bezos, 53, is an entrepreneur and volunteer firefighter with the Scarsdale Fire Department in Scarsdale, New York. Jeff Bezos said he regards his brother as his oldest and closest friend. Funk is most famous for her role in “Mercury 13,” a group of women who received privately funded, unofficial astronaut training in the 1960s but were not selected to fly NASA missions.

“I never thought I’d go up,” said Funk after Bezos selected her for the flight. Now she’s finally officially an astronaut.

Daemen, a physics student from the Netherlands, finished second in an auction for the seat. The first-place winner, bidding a whopping $ 28 million, chose to remain anonymous and fly a future New Shepard mission instead. Daemen’s father, Joes, is the founder of the Dutch hedge fund Somerset Capital Partners.

“I’m really excited to be flying into space,” he said. “I’ve dreamed about it all my life.”

Bacon reports from Arlington, Virginia

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