Blue Origin’s first crewed flight to space has returned to Earth successfully. “Best day ever,” said the company’s billionaire founder Jeff Bezos just after the flight, while he and his three crew mates waited to be retrieved from their capsule.
The other three passengers on the New Shepard rocket were Jeff Bezos’s brother, Mark Bezos, and both the oldest and youngest people ever to fly to space. The oldest is 82-year-old Wally Funk, who completed astronaut training along with 12 other women in the 1960s but never got to go to space. The youngest is 18-year-old Oliver Daemen, whose financier father bought his seat as the company’s first paying passenger.
The New Shepard rocket has completed 15 test flights, but this flight was the first to carry passengers. The craft is fully autonomous, so the crew didn’t need to do anything but enjoy the ride.
The flight lasted around 11 minutes, including about 3 minutes of weightlessness at the peak of its trajectory, and reached a top altitude of 107 kilometres. This marked the second tourist flight to space this month: on 11 July, Richard Branson visited the edge of space aboard a Virgin Galactic flight, narrowly beating Bezos to become the first person to fly on a spacecraft made by their own company.
“This is so much better than anything we could have ever imagined,” said Blue Origin executive Ariane Cornell during a live stream of the flight. There are two more flights planned in 2021 and ticket sales are now open, she said.
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