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.