Jeff Bezos Will be Flying to Space Aboard New Shepard Next Month
In recent years, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has watched his commercial space company, Blue Origin, lose ground to the competition. While SpaceX has progressed by leaps and bounds towards realizing regular launches to the Moon and Mars (with the fully-reusable Starship), Blue Origin has been stuck in development hell with its launch vehicles. For this reason, Bezos announced that he would be stepping down as CEO of Amazon to focus on his fledgling space company.
So far, this decision has borne fruit, with the successful suborbital flight test of the New Shepard rocket that took place this past April. Stepping things up a notch, Bezos recently announced that when the first crewed flight of the New Shepard happens later this summer, he will be among the passengers. Scheduled to take place on July 20th, this mission will see Bezos and his younger brother Mark become the first billionaire space tycoon to launch to space.
The announcement came on Monday, June 7th, via Blue Origin and Bezos’ own official Instagram accounts, where Bezos wrote: “Ever since I was five years old, I’ve dreamed of traveling to space. On July 20th, I will take that journey with my brother. The greatest adventure, with my best friend.” The post includes a video in which Bezos goes into detail about his motivations for going himself, and why he invited his brother along.
The video opens with Bezos making a reference to the Overview Effect, a term coined by “space philosopher” Frank White in his 1987 book of the same name. As Bezos aptly put it: “To see the Earth from space, it changes you, it changes your relationship with this planet, with humanity. It’s one Earth.” It is for this reason that Bezos and Blue Origin has been working towards getting the New Shepard ready to conduct suborbital flights for customers.
It’s also the reason why Bezos has decided to go himself and why he invited his brother to come with him, claiming that it would be “more meaningful” that way. “I wasn’t even expecting him to say that he was going to be on the first flight, and when he asked me to go along, I was just awestruck,” his brother says. “What a remarkable opportunity, not just to have this adventure, but to do it with my best friend!”
In addition to being reusable, the New Shepard is a fully autonomous suborbital spacecraft designed to take astronauts and research payloads past the Kármán Line – the boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and space. For years, Bezos has spoken of how this vehicle will fulfill his company’s vision of increasing access to space by offering commercial flights – i.e., space tourism.
To date, the New Shepard rocket has conducted 14 uncrewed flights to space, each time flying to an altitude of about 100 km (62 mi) above the surface. The previous flight, which took place on April 14th (SN-15), was a “dress rehearsal” for the first crewed mission, consisting of operations designed to simulate astronaut movements aboard the New Shepard capsule.
As with previous launches, the flight will last about 11 minutes in total from launch to touchdown. After the New Shepard first stage booster reaches the Kármán Line, the capsule will be released and the passengers inside will experience a few minutes of weightlessness and be treated to scenic views of Earth. The capsule will then descend, deploy its parachutes, and make a soft landing.
The other passengers will consist of the Blue Origin astronaut crew, with one seat set aside for whoever wins the online auction that was announced on May 5th to coincide with the 60th anniversary of Alan Shepard‘s historic Freedom 7 flight. In just three days (June 12th), the winner will be announced and all proceeds from the auction will be donated to Blue Origin’s foundation, Club for the Future. As of the writing of this article, the current high bid is $4 million USD.