Jeff Bezos will be flying to space on the first crewed flight of the New Shepard, the rocket ship made by his space company, Blue Origin. The flight is scheduled for July 20th, just 15 days after he is set to resign as CEO of Amazon.
Blue Origin said Bezos’ younger brother, Mark Bezos, will also join the flight.
“Ever since I was five years old, I’ve dreamed of traveling to space,” Bezos, 57, said in a Monday morning Instagram post. “On July 20th, I will take that journey with my brother. The greatest adventure, with my best friend.”
If all goes according to plan, Bezos — the world’s richest person with a net worth of $187 billion — will be the first of the billionaire space tycoons to experience a ride aboard the rocket technology that he’s poured millions into developing. Not even Elon Musk, whose SpaceX builds rockets powerful enough to enter orbit around Earth, has announced plans to travel to space aboard one of his companies human-worthy crew capsules. British billionaire Richard Branson, whose own space company, Virgin Galactic, is planning on conducting flights to suborbital space for ultra-wealthy thrill seekers and competing directly with Blue Origin. Branson has long said he would be among the first passengers aboard Virgin Galactic’s rocket-powered plane, but that flight is expected to take place later in 2021.
Blue Origin’s flight crewed flight will see the company’s six-seater capsule and 59-foot rocket tear toward the edge of space on a 11-minute flight that’ll reach more than 60 miles above Earth.
After six years of extensive and often secretive testing of the rocket and capsule, called New Shepard, Blue Origin announced in May that it was preparing to put the first passengers in a New Shepard capsule.
Though the company has not announced how much it will sell regular tickets for, Blue Origin said one seat will be given to the winner of a month-long auction that’s currently in progress. The bidding was at $2.8 million Monday morning but it hit $3.2 million after Blue Origin’s announcement.
Blue Origin was founded by Bezos in 2000, and the company conducted more than a dozen test flights with no one on board at Blue Origin’s facilities in rural Texas, about 70 miles from Marfa.
Bezos created Amazon in 1994, first as an online bookseller, with $250,000 from his parents. Over the following years it has grown to become one of the largest companies in the world, with business in everything from Amazon Web Services, a cloud computing services company that counts entities from Netflix to the CIA as customers; to owning MGM, the studio that makes James Bond; to holding a major stake in Rivian, an electric car company.
It has its own home security company, Ring, and its own grocery chain, Whole Foods. And that’s before you get to the airline, Prime Air, with its own fleet of over Prime Air-branded 70 aircraft, shipping exclusively packages from Amazon around the world.
Amazon’s explosive popularity helped grow Bezos’ fortune to more than a billion dollars by 1999, when he was named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year. He founded Blue Origin in 2000, and said at one point that he was selling upward of $1 billion worth of Amazon stock each year to help fund the company’s rocket development.
Bezos will remain involved in Amazon, though he will transition to the executive chairman role.
He will be succeeded as CEO by Andy Jassy, the head of Amazon Web Services.
Bezos’ brother, Mark, formerly the owner of an advertising agency and is now a senior vice president at Robin Hood, a New York City charity.
In addition to New Shepard, Blue Origin is also working to develop a towering rocket called New Glenn, which the company hopes will be used to send US government and commercial satellites to orbit, as well as potentially make trips to deep space. Blue Origin also hoped to be involved in NASA’s plan to return humans to the moon by 2024, though it was bested by SpaceX for a contract to build the lunar lander that would shuttle astronauts from the moon’s orbit down to the surface. Blue Origin is protesting that contract decision, though NASA has also said that Blue Origin is still eligible to bid to work on future lunar missions.
Bezos has called Blue Origin “the most important work I’m doing,” though he has not previously been open about whether he personally would like to travel to space.
“I’m interested in space because I’m passionate about it,” Bezos, who also made a cameo in 2016’s Star Trek: Beyond,” said during an interview with Mathias Döpfner, the CEO of Axel Springer. “I’ve been studying it and thinking about it since I was a five year old boy — but that is not why I’m pursuing this work. I’m pursuing this work because I believe if we don’t, we will eventually end up with a civilization of stasis, which I find very demoralizing.”
With additional reporting by Rachel Crane.