Jeff Bezos, the richest human in the world, went to space on 20 July. It was a brief jaunt, rising 60-some miles into the sky above West Texas — in a spacecraft that was built by Mr. Bezos’ rocket company, Blue Origin.
Jeff Bezos himself was seated in the capsule reflects his enthusiasm for the endeavor and perhaps signals his intent to give Blue Origin the focus and creative entrepreneurship that made Amazon one of the most powerful economic forces on the planet.
Just after 8:30 a.m. Eastern time, the four passengers arrived at a bridge atop the launch platform, with each ringing a bell hung at one end before crossing to the capsule. They then began boarding the capsule one at a time.
Once the booster had used up its propellant, the capsule detached from the rocket at an altitude of about 47 miles. Both pieces continued to coast upward, passing the 62-mile boundary often considered to be the beginning of outer space.
During this part of the trajectory, the passengers unbuckled and floated around the capsule, experiencing about four minutes of free fall and seeing views of Earth and the blackness of space from the capsule’s large windows.
The booster landed vertically, similar to the reusable Falcon 9 booster of the rival spaceflight company SpaceX. The capsule then descended until it gently set down in a puff of dust.
New Shepard, the Blue Origin spacecraft, is named after Alan Shepard, the first American in space. It consists of a reusable booster and a capsule on top, where the passengers sit.
New Shepard is designed to carrying people on a ride past the edge of space, with the capsules on previous test flights reaching an altitude of more than 340,000 feet (or more than 100 kilometers). The capsule spends as much as 10 minutes in zero gravity before returning to Earth, with massive windows to give passengers a view.
Blue Origin launched its first mission of 2021, flying its New Shepard rocket in West Texas to a medium height of just over 350,000 feet. This is the first flight for this particular booster, and for the capsule it carried, which was equipped with a range of new passenger safety, control and comfort systems that Blue Origin was testing during flight for the first time.
Blue Origin actually begins to fly paying private astronauts to suborbital space as well; while we don’t have a timeline for when that’ll happen, today’s launch included key tests of a crew that will provide anyone onboard with crucial mission information, as well as a new soft lining on the wall for protection during the weightless portion of the flight, as well as for sound and vibration dampening for the comfort of those on board.