Space

Liftoff! Jeff Bezos And Three Crewmates Head To Space

The founder of Amazon, who stepped down as CEO earlier this month, is scheduled to lift off early Tuesday with three crewmates on the maiden flight of Blue Origin’s New Shepard launch vehicle.

People watch on a television screen as the New Shepard Blue Origin rocket sits on the launch pad before Jeff Bezos along with his brother Mark Bezos, 18-year-old Oliver Daemen, and 82-year-old Wally Funk prepare to launch on Tuesday in Van Horn, Texas. Mr. Bezos and the crew are riding in the first human spaceflight for the company.

Wearing a cowboy hat under the West Texas morning sun, Jeff Bezos crossed the bridge to enter the capsule made by his company Blue Origin. He was accompanied by three others — his brother Mark Bezos, female aviation pioneer Wally Funk and 18-year-old Oliver Daemen.

Then the shuttle hatch closed and just before 9:15 a.m. ET, the four blasted into space on the first human flight on Blue Origin’s New Shepard launch vehicle.

Bezos is the second billionaire this month to reach the edge of space: Richard Branson rocketed there last week aboard a vessel made by his company Virgin Galactic.

The date of the New Shepard’s maiden launch is no accident: July 20 was the day in 1969 that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon.

The crew will travel 62 miles above Earth

The New Shepard suborbital flight path is designed to go higher than the Kármán Line, which is often considered the boundary of space: about 62 miles above Earth.

That line has been a sticking point in the space race between Bezos and Branson.

Branson’s SpaceShipTwo hit a peak altitude of around 282,000 feet — higher than NASA’s designated Earth-Space boundary of 50 miles, but short of the Kármán Line.

The start of a space tourism era

The launch is a big day for Bezos, but it’s primarily an advertisement for Blue Origin’s space tourism program. The company’s webcast touted that interested viewers should get in touch about booking a spot on a future Blue Origin flight.

Two more flights are scheduled for 2021.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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