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Jeff Bezos goes to space

blue origin inside capsule
See inside capsule during Jeff Bezos' spaceflight
02:18 - Source: CNN

What we covered here

  • To space and back: Jeff Bezos and his crew successfully completed a spaceflight. They were flying on the New Shepard, the rocket ship made by his space company, Blue Origin.
  • About the flight: The 10-minute flight went up more than 60 miles above Earth.
  • The billionaire space race: Earlier this month, Richard Branson became the first person to ride into space aboard a rocket he helped fund — beating Bezos by nine days.

Our live coverage of Blue Origin’s spaceflight has ended. Read more on the flight here.

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Here's how Jeff Bezos' spaceflight unfolded this morning

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos successfully flew to space this morning on the first crewed flight of New Shepard, a rocket ship made by his space company, Blue Origin. The trip took approximately 10 minutes.

If you’re just reading in, here’s what you need to know about the flight — and what comes next for the company:

  • The billionaire space race: Jeff Bezos was not the first billionaire to space to fly on a craft he helped fund — thanks to Richard Branson and his company, Virgin Galactic, which rocketed into space only nine days prior. Bezos is, however, now the richest person to go to space. Not to mention, Bezos’ rocket ship flew farther into space than Branson’s, reaching 62 miles above Earth — otherwise known as the Kármán line. In comparison, Branson’s crew flew roughly 50 miles above Earth.
  • The crew: In addition to the Amazon founder, New Shepard was crewed by Jeff Bezos’ brother, Mark Bezos, pilot Wally Funk and 18-year-old Oliver Daemen. At 82 years old, Funk is the oldest person to go to space — and she she had decades of piloting experience under her belt. Funk volunteered as a member of the Mercury 13 program, otherwise known as the “Women in Space Program,” in February 1961, which was a privately-funded effort intended to begin training women to fly in NASA’s earliest space programs. However, Funk was denied her chance to go to space until today. At 18 years old, Daemen is the youngest person to go to space, according to Blue Origin. A recent high school graduate, Daemen was Blue Origin’s first paying customer, after his father, an investor, purchased his ticket.
  • The flight: Despite a couple of brief delays, the New Shepard launched into space smoothly. The rocket fired into space, the engine kicked off, the crew capsule separated from the rocket and the booster successfully landed on the ground pad. More than 60 miles above Earth, the passengers experienced about three minutes of weightlessness, unstrapping from their seats and floating about the cabin while taking in panoramic views. Then, the crew capsule returned to Earth and made its landing, kicking up a large cloud of desert dust. 
  • The celebrations: Upon landing successfully, the crew popped a bottle of champagne, and Jeff Bezos called it the “best day ever.” Later, during a press conference, each passenger aboard the New Shepard rocket was presented with Blue Origin’s wings to commemorate their trip.
  • The future: Blue Origin says efforts such as today’s trip to space will allow the company to provide a future where people can live and work in space in order to keep the planet clean. “Blue Origin is working on this today by developing partially and fully reusable launch vehicles that are safe, low cost, and serve the needs of all civil, commercial and defense customers,” the company said. However, Blue Origin will continue to explore space tourism by offering tickets for joyrides to high-paying customers. In fact, the company announced it is open for ticket sales today. Those interested in flying on a future Blue Origin flight were asked to send the company an email — but we still don’t know how much a ticket will cost. Nevertheless, Jeff Bezos said his space company is approaching $100 million in private sales.

Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin's rival space company, congratulates crew on successful flight

Blue Origin’s New Shepard traveled over 60 miles above Earth in its first crewed trip to space. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, joined by his brother Mark Bezos, pilot Wally Funk and 18-year-old Oliver Daemen, experienced about three minutes of weightlessness during the 10-minute flight to space.

Jeff Bezos’ trip came only nine days after British billionaire Richard Branson launched into space with the help of his company, Virgin Galactic. The two billionaires have been intertwined in the “billionaire space race,” as both men have worked to develop, test and launch suborbital rockets that can take customers to space.

Although Branson was the first billionaire to reach space on a craft he helped fund on July 11, Bezos is now considered the richest person to launch into space.

Today, Branson’s company congratulated Blue Origin on its “successful flight.”

“It continues to be a great time for commercial space travel! We are encouraged by seeing more people exploring and conducting research in space, and creating a positive impact here on Earth,” Virgin Galactic wrote on Twitter, adding that the two companies will together “open space for good!”

Here’s a look at the company’s messages:

Former NASA astronaut says spaceflights like Blue Origin's could make space travel more accessible

Astronaut Leland Melvin in 2018.

Former NASA astronaut Leland Melvin said that he thinks Blue Origin spaceflight can help inspire more civilians to go to space.

“I think if more people can see the type of technology that’s been applied to this, autonomous rockets that are taking off and landing, we have a whole spectrum of people that are going to be thinking ‘hey, one day I may start my own company and build my own rocket.’ And maybe that’s a kid from a ZIP code that doesn’t usually get a chance to do some of these things. And so seeing this access and opportunity and belief that anything is possible for all kids,” Melvin said to CNN’s Ana Cabrera.

Melvin said having a capsule and rocket that are reusable is a “game-changer.”

“I think this is going to be making space more affordable. The price point will come down for more tourists to be able to go to space,” he said.

After Jeff Bezos and crew completed their spaceflight today, Blue Origin announced it is open for ticket sales. Those interested in flying on a future Blue Origin flight were asked to send the company an email — but they did not divulge how much a ticket will cost. Blue Origin has not sold tickets to the general public yet.

WATCH THE INTERVIEW:

04:30 - Source: CNN

Bezos gives new philanthropic awards to Chef José Andrés and CNN's Van Jones

Jeff Bezos unveiled a new philanthropic initiative during the Blue Origin post-flight press conference today called the “Courage and Civility Award.”

“It recognizes leaders who aim high and pursue solutions with courage who always do so with civility,” Bezos said.

The award is $100 million, Bezos announced. The recipient can give that money to the charities and the nonprofits of their choice. 

The first two awardees are Chef José Andrés and Van Jones, a CNN political commentator.

Andrés and his nonprofit World Central Kitchen have responded to several major crises, mobilizing volunteer chefs in disaster areas to prepare meals for thousands of people in need.

“I’m grateful for this award. And the incredible support from you, Jeff, and the entire Bezos family. Our kitchen was born from a simple idea that food has the power to create a better world. A plate of food is a plate of hope. It’s the fastest way to rebuild lives and communities,” Andrés said.

Bezos said the awardees “are people who have demonstrated courage,” adding, “it’s easy to be courageous but also mean. Try being courageous and civil. Try being courageous and a unifier.” 

“I haven’t always been courageous. But I know the people who are. They get up every day on the frontlines, grassroots communities. They don’t have much, but they’re good people and fight hard and they don’t have enough support,” Jones said.

Youngest person to fly to space says being in zero gravity felt natural 

Oliver Daemen — a 18-year-old recent high school graduate, Blue Origin’s first paying customer and the youngest person ever to fly to space — said “for sure” when asked if he got his money’s worth. 

Daemen said “it was so amazing” and agreed with Jeff Bezos that “it feels so natural, like, almost like we should be doing this” to be in zero gravity. 

Earlier Bezos said being in zero gravity “felt so normal, it felt like, almost like, we were, as humans, evolved to be in that environment which I know is impossible.”

Blue Origin passengers also flew with Amelia Earhart's goggles

Jeff Bezos said they took the goggles Amelia Earhart flew across the Atlantic with to space.

Earhart became the first female pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic in 1937.

Bezos also presented his mother with a Blue Origin feather necklace that he wore up into space.

WATCH:

01:33 - Source: CNN

Bezos said Blue Origin is nearing $100M in private sales

Jeff Bezos said his space company Blue Origin is approaching $100 million in private sales.

“The demand is very, very high. So we’re going to keep after that, because we really do want to practice with this vehicle. So we’re going to have to build more boosters to fly more frequently, and we’re going to be doing that and working on the operational things we need to do, all the the things we learned,” he said.

After Bezos and crew completed their spaceflight today, Blue Origin announced it is open for ticket sales. Those interested in flying on a future Blue Origin flight were asked to send the company an email — but they did not divulge how much a ticket will cost. Blue Origin has not sold tickets to the general public yet.

Bezos said he is planning two more flights this year and more in the future.

Bezos compared this first spaceflight to him starting out with Amazon.

“What we’re doing is the first step of something big. And I know what that feels like. I did it three decades ago, almost three decades ago, with Amazon. … You can tell when you’re onto something. And this is important. We’re going to build a road to space so that our kids and their kids can build the future,” Bezos said.

The New Shepard crew brought these two meaningful items to space

Mark Bezos said the crew borrowed two meaningful items from The Explorers Club to take on their trip to space: a piece of canvas from the plane the Wright Brothers flew and a bronze medallion made from the first hot air balloon flight.

“We were able to fly with a piece of canvas from the Wright Flyer, so the plane that the Wright Brothers flew, we brought a piece of that canvas with us which was really powerful, as well as a bronze medallion that was made from the first hot air balloon flight in 1783, which was the first time man ever, you know, left the Earth in controlled flight so we were very thrilled to bring both of those along with us,” Mark Bezos said.

His brother, Jeff Bezos, quickly added that they brought those items back to Earth with them.

The Explorers Club supports research and scientific exploration of land, sea, air and space.

Bezos says he wants to make space travel accessible to everyone

Asked how do you bring the cost of space travel down over time so it’s more accessible to everyone, Jeff Bezos said, “You’ve got to do it the same way we did it with commercial airline travel.” 

He said that space travel is in the “barnstormer phase” right now.

“That’s what we’re doing right now. You know where that barnstorming phase leads? To 787s. And that’s what we have to do,” he said.

Bezos and his crew successfully completed a spaceflight earlier Tuesday. They were flying on the New Shepard, the rocket ship made by his space company, Blue Origin.

After his spaceflight, Jeff Bezos says the atmosphere is fragile 

Jeff Bezos said the most profound part about being in space was recognizing how fragile the Earth’s atmosphere is. 

“The atmosphere is so gigantic…but when you get up above it, what you see is, it’s actually incredibly thin, it’s this tiny, little fragile thing and as we move about the planet, we are damaging it,” he said. 

“It’s one thing to recognize that intellectually, it’s another thing to actually see with your own eyes how fragile it really is and that was amazing,” Bezos added.

"Who wants a Skittle?": Video from inside rocket shows minutes of weightlessness aboard New Shepard

Video released and edited by Blue Origin shows a glimpse of what it was like inside the rocket ship during the about three minutes of weightlessness inside the capsule.

The passengers on the New Shepard — Jeff Bezos, Mark Bezos, Wally Funk and Oliver Daemen — tossed balls and Skittles as they floated around.

“All right. See if you can catch this in your mouth,” they say as the passengers float above Earth.

“I loved every minute of it,” Funk said at a news conference after the capsule landed. “It was great. I loved it. I can hardly wait to go again.”

“It felt way cooler than it looked,” Daemen said.

WATCH THE MOMENT:

02:35 - Source: CNN

Jeff Bezos thanks Amazon customers and employees who "paid for all this"

Jeff Bezos thanked Amazon employees and customers for funding Blue Origin’s trip to space during a press conference today.

Bezos’ appreciation, however, comes after Amazon has been repeatedly accused of labor violations.

Bezos also thanked the engineers at Blue Origin for building the New Shepard, along with the town of Van Horn, Texas for allowing the company to utilize the area.

82-year-old Wally Funk on spaceflight: "I want to go again, fast"

Wally Funk, the 82-year-old pilot who is now the oldest person to travel to space, said she felt “great” during the Blue Origin spaceflight.

“I’ve been waiting a long time to finally get it up there, and I’ve done a lot of astronaut training through the world — Russia, America — and I could always beat the guys on what they were doing because I was always stronger and I’ve always done everything on my own,” Funk said during the press conference.

She thanked Bezos and indicated that she’s not slowing down any time soon.

“I loved every minute of it. I just wish it had been longer,” Funk added.

WATCH WALLY FUNK:

01:31 - Source: CNN

New Shepard passengers presented with Blue Origin wings

Each passenger aboard the New Shepard rocket was presented with Blue Origin’s own wings to commemorate their trip.

Jeff Ashby, the senior director of safety and mission assurance and a former space shuttle commander, presented the pins to Jeff Bezos, Mark Bezos, Wally Funk, and Oliver Daemen after the flight on Tuesday.

The pins are in the shape of the letter “A.” The side pieces represent “the road to space and our feather logo is the crossbar,” Ashby said.

“At the top, a tiny blue sapphire to remind these folks that they are from planet Earth and that they have a mission to protect this home,” he added.

For context: It is important to note the pins are not Federal Aviation Administration commercial astronaut wings. The FAA awards wings to “crewmembers” but not “spaceflight participants.” The passengers on the New Shepard were only in space for a few minutes, and coupled with Virgin Galactic’s flight, it has led to debate on what exactly constitutes an “astronaut.”

WATCH:

04:42 - Source: CNN

Jeff Bezos says his expectations for the space flight "were dramatically exceeded"

Asked how it felt during the space flight, Jeff Bezos let out an excited “Oh my god!” at a press conference today.

Bezos said that zero-G was a “big surprise” to him because “it felt so normal.”

“It felt so — like, almost like we were as humans evolved to be in that environment. That’s impossible, but it felt peaceful,” he said.

He called it a “very pleasurable experience.”

Progressives call out Jeff Bezos's space flight as "self-indulgent" and renew calls for wealth tax

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, chair of the House Progressive Caucus, retweeted CNN’s story on Blue Origin, this morning adding, “On a related note, a wealth tax would generate at least $3 TRILLION for our communities.” And Rep. Jerry Nadler called the space flight “self-indulgent” and joins Jayapal and other progressives in calling for a wealth tax “on mega billionaires like Bezos.” 

Last month, Sen. Elizabeth Warren said of Bezos’ trip into space, “He’s laughing at every person in America who actually paid taxes … Jeff Bezos’ trip to outer space is being financed by all the rest of the US taxpayers who paid their taxes so that Jeff Bezos didn’t have to.”

Warren and Jayapal together introduced legislation for a wealth tax along with Rep. Brendan Boyle.

NOW: Jeff Bezos and crew hold a news conference after spaceflight

The crew members aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard are holding a news conference following their successful spaceflight this morning.

On board today’s flight were Jeff Bezos, his brother Mark Bezos, pilot Wally Funk and 18-year-old Oliver Daemen.

The 10-minute flight went up more than 60 miles above Earth.

After landing safely back to Earth, the crew went through a procedural status check. Jeff Bezos could be heard saying inside the capsule that it was the “best day ever.” Mark Bezos said he was feeling “unbelievably good.”