Another week, another billionaire flying into space, am I right? 🙂
Last week saw Virgin Galactic successfully completing their first fully-crewed spaceflight, with company founder Sir Richard Branson coming along for the ride. As you can imagine, that had to annoy the crap out of richest man in the world Jeff Bezos, who though that he would be the first one of his billionaire peers to reach space.
Nevertheless, Jeff Bezos and his company Blue Origin continued with their plans, successfully completing New Shepard’s first human flight today with four private citizens onboard. The crew included Jeff Bezos, Mark Bezos, Wally Funk and Oliver Daemen, who all officially became astronauts after passing the Kármán Line, the internationally recognized boundary of space.
A Historic Mission
- Wally Funk, 82, became the oldest person to fly in space.
- Oliver Daemen, 18, was the first ever commercial astronaut to purchase a ticket and fly to space on a privately-funded and licensed space vehicle from a private launch site. He also became the youngest person to fly in space.
- New Shepard became the first commercial vehicle under a suborbital reusable launch vehicle license to fly paying customers, both payloads and astronauts, to space and back.
- Jeff and Mark Bezos became the first siblings to ever fly in space together.
Named after America’s first astronaut, Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket soared on the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, a date chosen by Jeff Bezos for its historical significance. He held fast to it, even as Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson pushed up his own flight from New Mexico and beat him to space by nine days.
During today’s flight, Blue Origin’s capsule reached an altitude of about 66 miles, more than 10 miles higher than Virgin Galactic’s July 11th ride. The 60-foot booster accelerated to Mach 3 to get the capsule high enough, before separating and landing upright.
Interestingly enough, Bezos’ capsule was completely automated and required no official staff on board for the up-and-down flight. Though honestly, I’d feel a little better if there was someone “at the wheel” in case things went sideways.
Like the Virgin Galactic flight, this was a rather short trip to space, only lasting 10 minutes and 10 seconds. As such, the crew didn’t get to spend that much time in zero gravity “do a lot more rolls and twists and so forth,” and the capsule was rather cramped, with the crew bumping into one another while in zero-G. Sounds like they need to make it bigger for future trips.
With such an early morning launch, many of us around the world (myself included) missed the launch. But you can watch the live webcast replay here:
And here’s footage from inside New Shepard as they experience weightlessness:
“Today was a monumental day for Blue Origin and human spaceflight,” said Bob Smith, CEO, Blue Origin. “I am so incredibly proud of Team Blue, their professionalism, and expertise in executing today’s flight. This was a big step forward for us and is only the beginning.”
Blue Origin expects to fly two more crewed flights this year, with many more crewed flights planned for 2022. The space race is back in full swing, and it’s an exciting time for sure!