RNS: Amazon and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos, accompanied by three crewmates, returned safely to Earth after a space visit.
Bezos (57) completed this journey of around 106 km (66.5 miles) in about 11 minutes with his brother Mark, 82-year-old Wally Funk and 18-year-old Oliver Damon (a student from the Netherlands) in his space venture Blue Origin’s New Shepard launch vehicle and returned safely to Earth on Tuesday (20 July).
Rocket New Shepherd was launched from Blue Origin Launch Site One in West Texas at 6.45 pm (9:12 a.m. EDT). The capsule gave the four astronauts the pleasure of zero gravity for about four minutes.
CBS News reported, in a little more than two minutes, the spacecraft was shooting skyward at three times the speed of sound, dwindling to a blur more than 30 miles up. A few seconds later, at an altitude of about 45 miles, the booster’s company-designed BE-3 main engine shut down, and the crew capsule was released to fly on its own.
“Coasting upward along an unpowered ballistic trajectory, Bezos and his crewmates enjoyed about three minutes of weightlessness, unstrapping, floating about the cabin and taking in the view through the largest windows ever built into a spacecraft,” it added.
Bezos flew at an altitude (of about 106 kilometers) about 16 kilometers higher than Richard Branson’s flight, which flew into space aboard his Virgin Galactic rocket plane on 11 July.
Bezos’s capsules were fully automated, so there was no need for trained crews on the flight while two pilots were required to operate Branson’s Virgin Galactic rocket plane.
This flight, which made Bezos’s dream come true, came after 15 successful test flights to space by the New Shepard rocket since from 2015. However, there were no passengers on the earlier test flights.
Now, Blue Origin plans to have three more space flights by the end of the year, one with science payloads onboard and two with passengers.
“We are going to fly human missions twice more this year,” Bezos said. “What we do in the following year, I am not sure yet. We will figure that out and what the cadence will eventually be. We want the cadence to be very high.”
He added, “We are approaching $100 million in private sales already and the demand is very, very high. So we are going to keep after that.”
Ticket prices have not been revealed.
The cost of a flight aboard Virgin Galactic’s spaceplane is believed to be around $250,000, and Blue Origin tickets are expected to be competitive. But both companies hope economies of scale will eventually lower prices to less astronomical levels.