Jeff Bezos and three others blasted into space Tuesday on his rocket company Blue Origin’s first flight from the West Texas desert in the United States, becoming the second billionaire in just over a week to ride his own spacecraft. The Amazon founder was accompanied by a hand-picked group: his brother Mark Bezos, an 18-year-old from the Netherlands and an 82-year-old aviation pioneer from Texas the youngest and oldest to ever fly in space.
The Blue Origin flight reached an altitude of about 66 miles (106 kilometers), more than 10 miles (16 kilometers) higher than Branson’s July 11 ride. The 60-foot (18-meter) booster accelerated to Mach 3 or three times the speed of sound to get the capsule high enough, before separating and landing upright.
The spacecraft carrying the passengers landed safely roughly 10 minutes after it was launched on Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket. Jeff Bezos and the other passengers experienced about three minutes of weightlessness and stunning views through what the company boasts are the largest windows ever built on a space capsule. “Wow, wow, wow,” passengers could be heard saying as they glimpsed space for the first time. The flight is a huge milestone for Blue Origin, which was founded by Bezos in 2000. After the capsule touched down, Bezos said: “Astronaut Bezos [his callsign]: Best day ever!”
I got goose bumps, said Angel Herrera after the capsule landed. The hair on the back of my neck stood up, just witnessing history. Herrera, who lives in El Paso, was one of a few dozen people who watched the launch from inside Van Horn High School, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) away.
Blue Origin founded by Bezos in 2000 in Kent, Washington, near Amazon’s Seattle headquarters hasn’t revealed its price for a ride to space. Two more passenger flights are planned by year’s end, said Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith. The recycled rocket and capsule that carried up Tuesday’s passengers were used on the last two space demos, according to company officials.
Virgin Galactic already has more than 600 reservations at 250,000 apiece. Founded by Branson in 2004, the company has sent crew into space four times and plans two more test flights from New Mexico before launching customers next year.
Blue Origin’s approach was slower and more deliberate. After 15 successful unoccupied test flights to space since 2015, Bezos finally declared it was time to put people on board. The Federal Aviation Administration agreed last week, approving the commercial space license.
Jeff Bezos, 57, who also owns The Washington Post, claimed the first seat. The next went to his 50-year-old brother, Mark Bezos, an investor and volunteer firefighter, then Funk and Daemen. They spent two days together in training.
University of Chicago space historian Jordan Bimm said the passenger makeup is truly remarkable. Imagine if the head of NASA decided he wanted to launch in 1961 instead of Alan Shepard on the first U.S. spaceflight, he said in an email.