Jeff Bezos and three other passengers took flight with his space company Blue Origin on Tuesday morning, launching high above West Texas.
Why it matters: It’s Blue Origin’s first human flight and a major technical milestone for the company as it focuses on bringing suborbital spaceflight to more people in the future.
What happened: The company’s New Shepard capsule and rocket took flight at 9:11 a.m. ET, lofting the capsule high above the desert and bringing the crew about 62 miles into the air before descending back to Earth under parachutes.
- Bezos was joined by his brother Mark, the company’s first paying customer 18-year-old Oliver Daemen, and pioneering aviator Wally Funk, one of the women that passed the Mercury astronaut tests in the 1960s. Funk is now the oldest person ever to fly to space and Daemen is the youngest.
- “It’s dark up here,” Funk was heard saying on the flight webcast before the crew came back down to Earth. “You have a very happy crew up here, I want you to know,” Bezos said to mission control.
- Read a full play-by-play.
How it works: The New Shepard is designed to autonomously send its passengers on a ride to space without the need for a pilot within the craft.
- “We set out to design this vehicle for anybody — not professional astronauts — anybody with very little training, and that is a very hard problem,” Gary Lai, the senior director of the New Shepard design team, said during the launch webcast. “And yes, we have succeeded and I would put my own kids on that vehicle.”
The big picture: It’s been a pretty wild suborbital summer. Bezos’ flight comes after Richard Branson flew to suborbital space with his own company, Virgin Galactic.
- The two companies are now working to start flying more paying customers to space and back again.
- Yes, but: It’s not clear how much of a market there is for these kinds of flights, and the two companies haven’t yet revealed how much their tickets will cost for customers interested in purchasing.