On the first crewed mission from his company Blue Origin, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is poised to rocket to the edge of space and spend a few minutes outside Earth’s atmosphere on Tuesday.
Though the space-faring landscape has advanced by great leaps since then, as billionaires emerge as important actors driving the new race to the cosmos, the milestone launch in the current commercial space race occurs on the 52nd anniversary of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s moon landing in 1969.
According to Bloomberg data, Bezos is the world’s richest man, and he has stated that spaceflight will fulfill a longstanding goal.
He’s also voiced hope that Blue Origin will make space more accessible to everyone, despite the fact that the first flight’s seat cost $28 million to bid on. Due to “scheduling issues,” the mystery bidder who spent $28 million will not be able to attend on Tuesday. Blue Origin hasn’t revealed how much the youngster who took the place of the first bidder paid for his seat.
The Amazon CEO will be joined on the historic voyage by his brother, Mark Bezos, as well as the world’s oldest and youngest astronauts, Wally Funk, 82, and Oliver Daemon, 18. Funk is a trailblazing female pilot who prepared to be an astronaut during the first US-Soviet space race but was told at the time that they were only sending males to orbit. Daemon is a Dutch student who will start courses at Utrecht University in the autumn and is Blue Origin’s first paying client after the first auction winner pulled out.
The first Blue Origin flight is expected to take off at 9 a.m. ET from a remote facility north of Van Horn, Texas. The journey will last 11 minutes in total, with around three minutes spent above the so-called Karman line, which some consider being the border between Earth’s atmosphere and space. The astronauts will return to Earth in their capsule after re-entry, parachute-landing in the west Texas desert.
The event will be broadcast live on ABC News and streamed live on Blue Origin’s website. At 7:30 a.m. ET, the live broadcast will begin. There are no on-site public viewing places in the vicinity of the launch site, unlike other spaceflights. Following their return to Earth, the newly minted astronauts will hold a news conference.
The completely autonomous capsule does not have a pilot. While Blue Origin’s New Shepard has completed 15 test flights, Tuesday’s trip will be the first to include humans.
The concept of “space” has become a contentious issue in the current space race, with Sir Richard Branson facing criticism for failing to cross the Karman line (about 62 miles above Earth) on his Virgin Galactic trip earlier this month. However, unlike Elon Musk’s SpaceX missions, neither Blue Origin nor Virgin Galactic’s flights will reach Earth’s orbit. Musk, a wealthy participant in the current space race, has pointed out this “significant difference” on Twitter.
While the modern space race has become the domain of the ultra-rich at a time when a global pandemic on Earth has exacerbated inequities, some argue that the rise of private sector involvement has saved NASA money and has accelerated technological advancements, which in the long-run has the potential to open up space tourism to all who have ever been curious about the cosmos.
Despite this, the millionaire daredevils who are employing themselves as guinea pigs for their private space tourism companies have not received the same level of backing as astronauts during the initial US-Soviet space race. The enmity was heightened by rumors that Bezos and Musk had evaded paying income taxes. A petition on Change.org urging Bezos to stay in space has received widespread attention and more than 160,000 signatures.
Bezos said he’s wondering how temporarily leaving Earth would “transform” him in an interview with ABC News’ “Good Morning America” only one day before the voyage.
“I have no idea what that means for me,” Bezos remarked. “I’m not sure, but I’m looking forward to seeing what tomorrow brings. Everyone who has traveled to space claims that it has changed them in some manner. And I’m really looking forward to seeing how it will affect me.”