Space tourism is officially a thing of our times. Well, for the billionaires, anyway. Jeff Bezos, the billionaire who used to run Amazon, took a fifteen-minute ride into space with three others today on New Shepard, a launch vehicle developed by Blue Origin. The company has been in business since 2000. So far, Jeff Bezos has invested $7.5 billion in Blue Origin. His suborbital flight on New Shepard has been a long time coming. Naturally, the launch was livestreamed, so you can watch footage of the entire journey and listen to audio from inside New Shepard during the flight.
The livestream starts a couple of hours before the actual launch time. The video below has been queued up to start at 2:10:40, which is the beginning of the ten-second countdown for take-off. Inside the vehicle is Jeff Bezos, his brother Mark Bezos, an 18 year old named Oliver Daemen who is the son of a millionaire, and Wally Funk, an 82-year-old aviation pioneer.
When New Shepard passes the Kármán Line, the commentators inform the audience that Jeff Bezos and his fellow passengers are now “technically astronauts, by the US definition”. They’re making a point of this because, well, New Shepard wasn’t exactly traveling all the way to the moon. This is a suborbital flight and is passing the Kármán Line, which is considered the point where Earth’s atmosphere ends and outer space begins.
There are many fun notes from the commentary by the New Shepard passengers during the flight. One is that as they cross into zero gravity, Jeff Bezos can be heard asking the others, “Who wants a Skittle?” It’s unknown if anyone took him up on his generous offer.
Wally Funk has gained a lot of public attention for her part in this trip with Jeff Bezos. The 82-year-old is now the oldest person to travel into space. One of the requirements for this trip was that the passengers all had to demonstrate that they could climb seven flights of stairs in 90 seconds or less. Wally Funk, at 82 years old, did this with flying colors. Reportedly, she beat Jeff Bezos and the others up those stairs. During the 1960s, she had actually trained to be an astronaut but was ultimately denied the opportunity. This was said to be because of her gender. She was told, “You’re a girl, you can’t do that.” Now, she’s an astronaut. During the livestream, she can be heard saying a few fun things, including, “It’s dark up here!” and “Oh my word, look at the world!”.
After landing, Jeff Bezos, and the three other people aboard New Shepard, can be seen exiting the launch vehicle and greeting the press in the video below.
Jeff Bezos had been planning this trip, making announcements for it a little over a month ago. At the time, it seemed he would be the first of the billionaires to go up into space, but Richard Branson made a surprise trip and beat him to it. Richard Branson took this trip with his company, Virgin Galactic. The two companies are rivals, up against Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Should we expect to see Elon Musk climbing to suborbital heights next? That’s unlikely. Musk is on a mission to Mars, and has said that he may not actually go himself. Currently, SpaceX is working on Starship prototypes for the Mars mission. They have had several suborbital test flights without people on board. As for Bezos, it’s unknown what his next plans are for private trips with Blue Origin. Maybe we’ll see him planning a weekend trip to the moon next.