Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin Are Finally Flying to Space

Mon, 19 Jul 2021 12:00:00 GMT
Scientific American - Science

After nearly twenty years pursuing a lifelong dream of spaceflight, the world’s wealthiest person is...

The spaceflight company founded by billionaire Jeff Bezos is set to launch its first crewed mission on Tuesday, which will send the billionaire and three other people to suborbital space aboard a reusable rocket-capsule combo called New Shepard.

The flight is a huge milestone for Blue Origin, which Bezos founded back in September 2000.

Blue Origin secured another such deal a year later, but NASA ultimately chose SpaceX and Boeing to fly agency astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

That string of success has convinced Bezos and the rest of the Blue Origin team that New Shepard is ready to start carrying people-and that Bezos should be among the first to fly.

Blue Origin announced in early May that New Shepard's first crewed mission would lift off on July 20, and that the company would auction off one of the seats.

Funk will become the oldest person ever to reach space when New Shepard lifts off on July 20, breaking the record set by then-77-year-old John Glenn during a space shuttle mission October 1998.

The same day that Blue Origin announced Funk's involvement, the company's main rival in the suborbital space tourism business, Virgin Galactic, came out with a bombshell of its own: It planned to launch its first fully crewed spaceflight on July 11, and billionaire Virgin Group founder Richard Branson would be on board.

Blue Origin's ambitions extend far beyond suborbital space.

"Blue Origin was founded by Jeff Bezos with the vision of enabling a future where millions of people are living and working in space to benefit Earth," the company's vision statement reads, in part.

"In order to preserve Earth, Blue Origin believes that humanity will need to expand, explore, find new energy and material resources, and move industries that stress Earth into space."