Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest person, and three crewmates launched from the West Texas desert on Tuesday aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard launch vehicle for a suborbital trip, marking yet another milestone in ushering in a new age of private space travel. The spacecraft ignited its BE-3 engines in preparation for launch from Blue Origin’s Launch Site One, which is located about 20 miles (32 kilometres) outside the small town of Van Horn. The weather was mainly clear with a few scattered clouds on a chilly morning for the launch. Only nine days after British billionaire Richard Branson flew onboard Virgin Galactic’s successful inaugural suborbital mission from New Mexico, the 57-year-old American millionaire will embark on an 11-minute excursion to the edge of space.
Bezos and the other passengers hopped into an SUV vehicle for a short trip to the launch pad before stepping up a tower and boarding the sparkling white spaceship, which had a blue feather pattern on its side.
“They’re in for a once-in-a-lifetime flight,” Blue Origin launch presenter Ariane Cornell said during a live broadcast.
Although Branson was the first to reach space, Bezos is set to go higher – 62 miles (100 kilometres) for Blue Origin vs 53 miles (86 kilometres) for Virgin Galactic – in what analysts term the world’s first unpiloted space mission with an all-civilian crew. It is Blue Origin’s first crewed space mission.
Amazon.com Inc founder Jeff Bezos and his brother Mark Bezos, a private equity specialist, were joined by two others. Wally Funk, an 82-year-old pioneering female aviator, and Oliver Daemen, a recent high school graduate, are the oldest and youngest individuals to reach space.
The trip takes place on the same day that Americans Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin became the first people to walk on the moon, on July 20, 1969. New Shepard is named after Alan Shepard, the first American in space in 1961.
Funk was one of the so-called Mercury 13 women who prepared to be NASA astronauts in the early 1960s but were turned over due to their gender. Daemen, Blue Origin’s first paying client, is headed to the Netherlands to study physics and innovation management. His father, the CEO of investment firm Somerset Capital Partners, was on hand to see his son’s space flight.
Members of the Bezos family, Blue Origin staff, and a few spectators gathered along the roadway before dawn saw the launch.