By: Emily Bunn
3,2,1… Liftoff! On July 20, Blue Origin LLC, an American privately funded aerospace manufacturer and sub-orbital spaceflight services company, launched its first crewed mission. July 20 marks the anniversary of the first ever human landing on the moon, by Buzz Aldrin on the Apollo 11.
Blue Orbit, founded by Jeff Bezos, took the billionaire Amazon CEO and his brother, Mark Bezos into orbit. Also aboard the aircraft is Wally Funk. Funk is American aviator and Mercury 13 astronaut. The final passenger aboard the mission is eighteen-year-old physics student, Oliver Daemen.
Jeff Bezos has been excitedly anticipating this mission. He commented to NBC’s Today Show on Monday, July 19, stating I’m so excited. I can’t wait to see what it’s going to be like… People say they go into space and they come back changed. Astronauts always talk about that, whether it’s the thin limb of the Earth’s atmosphere and seeing how fragile the planet is, that it’s just one planet. So I can’t wait to see what it’s gonna do to me.”
The daring mission took place on Blue Orbit’s New Shephard rocket this morning. The spacecraft is made from a rocket, topped by a capsule. New Shephard took off at 9:11 a.m. EDT (1311 GMT) and stands as the company’s first human flight. This momentous occurrence marks Blue Orbit’s first crewed flight.
During the flight, the New Shephard climbed to a peak altitude of 351210 ft into the atmosphere. In total, the capsule carried the four passengers 66.5 miles (107 kilometers) above earth. Jeff Bezos enjoyed his space mission, remarking “Blue Control, Bezos. Best day ever!” during the mission. Once completed, the flight took just over ten minutes from liftoff to landing.
At 9:40, the New Shephard returned to earth and landed in the Texas desert. The space craft was aided in its landing by parachutes. Upon touching down onto the dessert soil, a sonic boom erupted and dust temporarily muddied the surrounding arid landscape. In the course of the landing, Jeff Bezos enthusiastically exclaimed, “You’ve got a very happy crew, I want you to know,” reports Space. The members of the suborbital spaceflight were greeted by their family immediately after exiting the aircraft.
Live updates as well as a post-flight press conference can be viewed on Space’s website HERE.
However, Bezos isn’t the only billionaire to launch into space as of late. On July 11, the founder of the Virgin Group, Richard Branson, also was catapulted into orbit. Branson traveled on the VSS Unity space plane, of which was Virgin Galactic’s first fully crewed flight. In fact, Virgin Galactic and Blue Origins are each other’s most competitive rivals in the race for the suborbital space tourism business. Both billionaires basked in a few minutes of weightlessness and once in a lifetime view of earth.
Looking ahead, both Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin seek to continue their successful test flights. With a ticket costing $250,000, Virgin Galactic’s luxurious mission offers passengers a priceless field of vision. Blue Orbits’ spacecraft tickets are estimated to also cost around the same price. As suborbital space tourism takes off, the world waits in earnest to see who is next to visit space.