Amazon.com Inc. founder Jeff Bezos and three other passengers pulled off Blue Origin’s first crewed flight to space, a key milestone in the company’s push to make space tourism viable.
Blue Origin’s capsule touched down safely in West Texas at about 8:22 a.m. It reached an altitude of more than 65 miles above ground level. Bezos emerged wearing a cowboy hat and accompanied by his fellow passengers: Mark Bezos, his brother; Wally Funk, 82, a former astronaut trainee; and Oliver Daemen, the 18-year-old son of a Dutch financier.
After the Blue Origin trip, Bezos said that his journey was more than he’d dreamed of, adding that microgravity felt “normal.” Blue Origin’s long-term vision is for orbital flight, Bezos said.
“We are building a road to space so that future generations can build the future,” he said. “We live on this beautiful planet, it’s the most beautiful planet in the solar system by far, and we have to protect it.”
He’s been selling Amazon stock to fund Blue Origin, based in Kent, Washington, now has 3,500 employees and builds rocket engines used to launch satellites. Bezos stepped down as Amazon CEO earlier this month to become executive chairman of the e-commerce giant.
The ultimate goal is to make such trips routine on reusable rockets like airplanes. The New Shepard booster returned to a landing pad to be reused rather than breaking apart in the atmosphere.
Reusable rockets are crucial to lowering the cost of space travel, which could make it more accessible. Blue Origin hasn’t disclosed the expected price of future space trips or the amount paid by Daemen, the teenage passenger.
“The architecture and technology we have chosen is complete overkill for a sub-orbital tourism mission,” Bezos said at a press conference following his return. “Why did we do that? Because it scales. It’s an architecture that can grow to a very large size.”
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