Now it's Jeff Bezos' turn to make history with flight into space

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NBC News 18 July, 2021 - 08:01am 53 views

When does Blue Origin launch?

Blue Origin's first human launch with Jeff Bezos: When to watch and what to know. The launch is set for 9 a.m. EDT (1300 GMT) on July 20, 2021. Space.comBlue Origin's first human launch with Jeff Bezos: When to watch and what to know

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Former NASA astronaut and ISS commander Leroy Chiao reacts to Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin space flight and how 'tourists' train for leisure space travel.

Blue Origin CEO Jeff Bezos and the three passengers who will be accompanying him into space next week arrived in Texas on Friday to prepare for the launch.

The crew is scheduled to lift off Tuesday from a facility near Van Horn. They will be aboard Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket, for the aerospace company's first-ever crewed launch.

"The four of us have just arrived in West Texas today," the Amazon founder wrote in a Friday Instagram post. "Can’t wait for Tuesday! #GradatimFerociter"

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Everything You Need To Know About Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin Flight to Space

Bloomberg Quicktake: Now 18 July, 2021 - 08:00am

Meet the crew launching on Blue Origin's 1st astronaut flight on July 20

Space.com 18 July, 2021 - 07:10am

Yes, Jeff Bezos is on board.

Billionaire founder Jeff Bezos has nabbed a lot of the media attention, but he won't be the only crew member on board. Also riding him will be Bezos' brother Mark, 82-year-old Mercury 13 aviator Wally Funk, and Oliver Daemen, an 18-year-old physics student.

You can watch the flight Tuesday starting at 7:30 a.m. EDT (1130 GMT) and streaming may be available on Space.com, depending on how the broadcast is run. A typical New Shepard flight is 11 minutes long, and following the flight, the crew will participate in a press conference.

A photo posted by on

New Shepard is an automated spaceflight system and all of the crew will be rookie astronauts, although Funk is a highly experienced aviator with close to 20,000 hours as a pilot and instructor. Here's a mini-introduction to each of the crew members.

Jeff Bezos, 57, founded Blue Origin in 2000. Bezos wanted to go to space as a teenager, but determined he would do so as an entrepreneur and buy his way into the opportunity. His solution was to enter the then-emergent field of computer science. He struck it rich after founding Amazon in 1994, which rapidly expanded from a bookseller into an all-around general goods and streaming empire that made Bezos billions. Bezos resigned as Amazon CEO a few weeks ago to focus on his other ventures, including Blue Origin.

Related: Blue Origin's launch with Jeff Bezos: Everything you need to know

Mark Bezos, 53, the younger brother of Bezos and a millionaire in his own right, as he owns shares of Amazon. He is a former ad executive and the cofounder of private equity firm HighPost Capital, according to Business Insider. Mark Bezos is also on the leadership council of the non-profit Robin Hood, which fights poverty. The Bezos brothers are close and Mark recently said on Instagram that he was "awestruck" that Jeff asked him to come aboard the flight. 

Wally Funk, 82, a pioneer female aviator best known for being one of the Mercury 13, women tested by NASA as potential astronauts during the early days of the U.S. space program. Jeff Bezos personally invited Funk to join the crew and it appears she did not pay for the opportunity (which would have cost millions). Funk is set to become the oldest person to fly in space, beating the late Mercury astronaut John Glenn, who was 77 when he flew on his second mission on NASA's space shuttle Discovery in 1998.

Oliver Daemen, 18, a student who plans to study innovation and physics at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands and has been wanting to fly to space since age 4. Daemen moved up a flight to take over the seat won by an anonymous winner of a $28 million auction, who postponed due to a scheduling conflict. Daemen's seat was paid for by his father Joes, who is CEO and founder of Somerset Capital Partners, making him Blue Origin's first paying customer. Daemen will be the youngest person in space after this mission, beating Russian cosmonaut Gherman Titov, who was 25 when he flew on the Soviet Union's Vostok 2 mission in 1961.

Blue Origin has not yet disclosed future seat pricing or its schedule for future flights, but you can sign up to a waiting list for more information when available. Competitor Virgin Galactic offers seats for $250,000 apiece, but has not yet widely opened up its flights for paying passengers; the company is expected to do so in 2022.

Visit Space.com on July 20 for complete coverage Blue Origin's first astronaut launch.

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EXPLAINER: How Blue Origin's Jeff Bezos will soar into space

Associated Press 18 July, 2021 - 06:32am

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — When Blue Origin launches people into space for the first time, founder Jeff Bezos will be on board. No test pilots or flight engineers for Tuesday’s debut flight from West Texas, just Bezos, his brother, an 82-year-old aviation pioneer and a teenage tourist.

The capsule is entirely automated, unlike Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic rocket plane that required two pilots to get him to space and back a week ago.

Branson’s advice? “Just sit back, relax, look out of the window, just absorb the view outside,” he said on CBS’ “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”

Differences in quirks and rockets aside, the billionaire rivals are gearing up to launch just about anybody willing to shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars for a brief up-and-down space hop.

A brief look at what awaits Bezos and his passengers:

Bezos created Blue Origin in 2000, a move that he said prompted his high school girlfriend to observe, “Jeff started Amazon just to get enough money to do Blue Origin — and I can’t prove her wrong.” He has said he finances the rocket company by selling $1 billion in Amazon stock a year. Bezos caught the space bug at age 5 while watching Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s moon landing on July, 20, 1969. He chose the 52nd anniversary for his own launch. Enamored by space history, Bezos named his New Shepard rocket after Alan Shepard, the first American in space, and his bigger, still-in-development New Glenn rocket after John Glenn, the first American in orbit. The 57-year-old Bezos — who also owns The Washington Post — stepped down as Amazon’s CEO earlier this month and last week donated $200 million to the Smithsonian Institution to renovate its National Air and Space Museum and launch an education center. “To see the Earth from space, it changes you. It changes your relationship with this planet, with humanity,” he said. “It’s a thing I’ve wanted to do all my life.”

Bezos personally invited two of his fellow passengers — his 50-year-old brother Mark, an investor and volunteer firefighter, and female aviation pioneer Wally Funk. Joining them will be Oliver Daemen, a last-minute fill-in for the winner of a $28 million charity auction who had a scheduling conflict. At age 82, Funk will become the oldest person in space. She was among 13 female pilots — the so-called Mercury 13 — who took the same tests in the early 1960s as NASA’s Mercury 7 astronauts, but were barred because of their gender. “Finally!” Funk exclaimed when offered a seat alongisde Bezos. As for the Dutch Daemen — who at 18 will become the youngest person in space — his financier father bid on the capsule seat in June, but dropped out when the price soared. Blue Origin came calling just over a week ago, after the unidentified auction winner switched to a later flight. The teenage space fanactic, who starts college this fall, is Blue Origin’s first paying customer; no word on what his ticket cost.

While Bezos won’t be the first boss to ride to space on his own rocket, he can lay claim to strapping in for his company’s first human launch. He’s also aiming higher, with an anticipated altitude of about 66 miles (106 kilometers) versus Branson’s 53.5 miles (86 kilometers). Blue Origin’s 60-foot (18-meter) New Shepard rocket will accelerate toward space at three times the speed of sound, or Mach 3, before separating from the capsule and returning for an upright landing. The passengers will experience three to four minutes of weightlessness, before their capsule parachutes onto the desert just 10 minutes after liftoff. That’s five minutes less than Alan Shepard’s 1961 Mercury flight. Blue Origin, though, offers the biggest windows ever built for a spacecraft. Bezos purchased the desolate, parched land for launching and landing rockets. The closest town is Van Horn, population 1,832.

Blue Origin has completed 15 test flights to space since 2015, carrying up experiments, children’s postcards and Mannequin Skywalker, the company’s passenger stand-in. Except for the booster crash-landing on the first trip, all the demos were successful. One rocket ended up flying seven times and another five. The capsules also were recycled. Blue Origin deliberately aborted a couple flights after liftoff to test the emergency escape system on the capsule. The pace seemed slow compared with the competition, and many wondered why Blue Origin — its motto Gradatim Ferociter, or step by step ferociously — was taking so long to launch people. Based in Kent, Washington, the company kept fairly mum on its launch plans. Bezos finally announced “it’s time” following the last test flight in April, a dress rehearsal that saw mock passengers briefly climb aboard before liftoff.

Blue Origin is expected to open ticket sales soon after Bezos flies. There’s no immediate word on how much rides will cost. The fourth seat on the upcoming flight was auctioned off for $28 million. Nineteen space advocacy and education groups are getting $1 million each as a result, with the rest to be used by Blue Origin’s Club for the Future for its own education effort. While the diminutive New Shepard is meant to launch people on brief flights to the edge of space, the mega New Glenn will be capable of hauling cargo and eventually crew into orbit from Cape Canaveral, Florida, possibly beginning late next year. Blue Origin also has its eyes on the moon. Its proposed lunar lander, Blue Moon, lost to SpaceX’s Starship in NASA’s recent commercial competition to develop the technology for getting the next astronauts onto the moon. Blue Origin is challenging the contract award, as is Dynetics, the other competitor.

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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