Jeff Bezos goes to space

By Jackie Wattles, Aditi Sangal, Melissa Macaya, Melissa Mahtani, Meg Wagner and Adrienne Vogt, CNN

Updated 4:24 PM ET, Tue July 20, 2021
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10:12 a.m. ET, July 20, 2021

The oldest and youngest people to travel to space just made history

After decades of waiting, Wally Funk finally accomplished her dream of flying to space, becoming the oldest person to do so.

The 82-year-old pilot 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.

"I got ahold of NASA four times, and said, 'I want to become an astronaut,' but nobody would take me," Funk said. "I didn't think I would ever get to go up. Nothing has ever gotten in my way. They say, 'Wally, you're a girl, you can't do that.' I said, 'Guess what, doesn't matter what you are, you can still do it if you want to do it,' and I like to do things that nobody's ever done before."

Funk has extensive experience piloting aircraft, logging over 19,600 flying hours and teaching more than 3,000 people how to fly private and commercial aircraft.

Also making history in the Blue Origin spaceflight was 18-year-old recent high school graduate Oliver Daemen, who became the youngest person to travel to space.

Daemen was Blue Origin's first paying customer, and his father, an investor, purchased his ticket.

Daemen replaced a mystery bidder who agreed to pay $28 million for a ticket, but who had to reschedule for a later mission because of "scheduling conflicts."

10:05 a.m. ET, July 20, 2021

Jeff Bezos is worth more than the entire Apollo program

From CNN's Michael Ballaban

Jeff Bezos has a net worth of approximately $200 billion — but pinning an exact number down is difficult, as it goes up and down with Amazon's share price and a lot of other factors.

But what we do know for certain is that, as of this moment, his net worth is greater than the combined cost of the entire Apollo space program, adjusted for inflation.

The Apollo program cost about $19.4 billion, in 1973 dollars, according to NASA. Adjusted for inflation, that's a mere $118.7 billion.

Blue Origin hopes to go to the moon one day, so they might need the cash.

10:02 a.m. ET, July 20, 2021

Fellow billionaire space traveler Richard Branson congratulates Jeff Bezos

From CNN's Alyssa Kraus

Blue Origin's first flight to space with humans onboard was a success. Crew members Jeff Bezos, Mark Bezos, Wally Funk and Oliver Daemen traveled more than 60 miles above Earth on a flight that took roughly 11 minutes.

This joyride to space came only nine days after British billionaire Richard Branson successfully flew to space with his company, Virgin Galactic.

Branson congratulated the Blue Origin crew after their flight, calling it "impressive!"

9:50 a.m. ET, July 20, 2021

Blue Origin wants to know if you'd like to buy a ticket to space — so how much will they cost?

From CNN's Jackie Wattles

Michael Craft Photography/Blue Origin
Michael Craft Photography/Blue Origin

After Jeff Bezos and crew completed their spaceflight, 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.

Unlike its chief competitor, Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin has not sold tickets to the general public yet, nor has it said how much it will sell seats for.

So far, the only price point made public was the $28 million that the as-yet-unnamed auction winner put up. But they mysteriously canceled on the richest man in the world on his rocket, saying only that they had a scheduling conflict, according to Blue Origin.

That person will fly on a later flight, possibly sometime this year as Blue Origin says it will do up to two additional crewed missions in 2021 that it's already in the process of booking.

We also know that Oliver Daemen's — the 18-year-old who is flying in the auction winner's place — dad was an auction participant and was given the option to purchase a ticket after the winner bowed out of today's flight. But Blue Origin has stayed strictly mum about how much money was exchanged.

"We are selling tickets. Obviously, the first ticket was done via auction but we are chatting with our customers that participated in that auction. But if anybody's interested, send us an email — astronauts@blueorigin.com — and we'll have a conversation, because we want to get people up to space and get them up there soon," Blue Origin's head of sales, Ariane Cornell, told CNN Business' Rachel Crane.

The bottom line: We still have no idea how much most people have paid — nor are willing to pay — for the chance to spend 11 minutes aboard Blue Origin's New Shepherd rocket as it blasts into space.

But the company says the auction did give a strong indication that there are plenty of people anxious to go: 7,600 people from 159 countries registered to bid.

9:38 a.m. ET, July 20, 2021

Blue Origin’s ultimate goal: Colonizing space

From CNN's Jackie Wattles

New Shepard NS-14 lifting off from Launch Site One in West Texas during a test flight on January 14, 2021.
New Shepard NS-14 lifting off from Launch Site One in West Texas during a test flight on January 14, 2021. Blue Origin

There's been plenty of blowback about billionaires in space. Bezos, the world's richest man, has funded the company almost solely out of his own pocket. And the way things in the commercial space industry are shaking out has critics concerned that the ultra-wealthy view outer space as their own personal escape hatch.

Still, Blue Origin and other billionaire-backed space companies put out a lot of talk about their technologies paving the way toward a "democratization" of space in which everyday people — not just government-trained astronauts — get to experience the thrill of spaceflight. These early suborbital space tourism flights are prohibitively expensive to the vast majority of people, and that's not expected to change anytime soon.

Blue Origin, however, describes its long-term vision as one of spacefaring colonization and benevolence:

Blue Origin was founded by Jeff Bezos with the vision of enabling a future where millions of people are living and working in space to benefit Earth. To preserve Earth, Blue Origin believes that humanity will need to expand, explore, find new energy and material resources, and move industries that stress Earth into space.  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. 

It's still early days, of course. The New Shepard rocket and capsule system is suborbital, meaning it doesn't drum up nearly enough energy to remain in space for more than a couple of minutes. But the company is working on a much larger rocket for that purpose — called New Glenn — and a lunar lander that it hopes will be used to support NASA missions.

Bezos has also talked in the past about O'Neill colonies, a concept for spinning space stations that can mimic Earthlike gravity for passengers, as a possible habitat for future space dwellers.

Who will own the space stations? And will passengers be employees or tourists? Will space travel, if necessary to save humanity, only be available to those who can afford to pay? And is Bezos' time and money better spent trying to solve Earthly problems rather than seeking to escape them?

We don't know. There are plenty of unanswered questions and raging debates.

CNN's Rachel Crane asked Bezos about the pushback on Monday.

"They are largely right," Bezos said of critics who say billionaires should focus their energy — and money — on issues closer to home. "We have to do both. We have lots of problems here and now on Earth and we need to work on those, and we always need to look to the future. We've always done that as a species, as a civilization."

9:50 a.m. ET, July 20, 2021

The crew celebrated its successful spaceflight with champagne

The crew popped a bottle of champagne to celebrate their successful trip to space with the New Shepard, Blue Origin's rocket.

Jeff Bezos could be heard saying inside the capsule that it was the "best day ever" during his astronaut status check response.

WATCH THE MOMENT:

9:32 a.m. ET, July 20, 2021

Jeff Bezos: "Best day ever"

Blue Origin
Blue Origin

After landing safely back to Earth, Jeff Bezos could be heard saying inside the capsule that it was the "best day ever" in his astronaut status check response.

He said to 82-year-old pilot Wally Funk that the trip was "incredible," and she responded "it was!"

Jeff Bezos' brother, Mark Bezos, said "I'm unbelievably good" after landing.

9:36 a.m. ET, July 20, 2021

The crew is back on Earth and out of the capsule

After completing procedural status checks, the crew aboard the New Shepard stepped out of the just-landed capsule.

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

Bezos came out of the capsule wearing his cowboy hat.

All crew members were greeted by their family members, who were standing next to the capsule, waiting for the gate to be opened.

WATCH:

9:34 a.m. ET, July 20, 2021

Blue Origin congratulates first astronaut crew

From CNN's Alyssa Kraus

Jeff Bezos and crew have officially landed after a successful flight to space, making these four members the first astronauts aboard a Blue Origin spacecraft.

"This first astronaut crew wrote themselves into the history books of space, opening the door through which many after will pass," Blue Origin tweeted.