The billionaire space race could benefit regular people, too

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Yahoo Finance 14 July, 2021 - 01:13pm 21 views

Where is Jeff Bezos launching from?

Jeff Bezos to launch himself into space on Blue Origin rocket in July. CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Jeff Bezos' rocket company has gotten government approval to launch people into space, himself included. NBC NewsBezos' Blue Origin gets OK to send him, 3 others to space

When is the Blue Origin flight?

Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket is counting down for its first crewed flight on July 20, when it will launch company founder Jeff Bezos and three others into space, and you can watch the whole thing live. Space.comBlue Origin will launch billionaire Jeff Bezos into space on July 20. Here's how to watch.

When is Richard Branson going into space?

Richard Branson is going to space The space tourism company Virgin Galactic successfully launched its founder Richard Branson and five other crewmembers into suborbital space on July 11, 2021 in a milestone mission that marked the first fully crewed flight of its VSS Unity space plane. Space.comIn photos: Virgin Galactic's 1st fully crewed spaceflight with billionaire Richard Branson

Jeff Bezos' spaceflight passenger plans to fly on Virgin Galactic too

Business Insider 14 July, 2021 - 04:22pm

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Funk is an 82-year-old aviator who was invited by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos to be the fourth passenger on his spaceflight on July 20. But over a decade ago, Funk paid $200,000 for a future ride on Virgin Galactic's suborbital plane, according to The Guardian — and it seems she has no intention of giving up her seat.

"At this point, yes, Wally is planning to fly with Virgin Galactic too," Funk's agent, Loretta Hall, told Insider in an email. 

Virgin Galactic told Insider that the company didn't comment on "the identities of Future Astronauts." Blue Origin did not respond to a request for comment on Funk's plans.

Earlier this month, Bezos announced Funk would join him, his younger brother Mark, and a third passenger on their 11-minute trip to space. (The other passenger, whose name hasn't been disclosed, placed the winning $28 million bid in an auction for the seat last month.)

"No one has waited longer," Bezos wrote in an Instagram post. "It's time. Welcome to the crew, Wally."

In 1961, Funk joined an all-woman space mission dubbed "Mercury 13." She embarked on an extensive series of tests and trainings, which she aced — she told Texas Monthly that the researchers told her she had performed better than any other astronaut in the program, man or woman.

But the program was ultimately scrapped, and Funk never made it to space. In 1962, two of the women from the program testified before the House Committee on Science and Astronautics that they were being denied the opportunity simply because they were women.

Funk later embarked on a long career in flight, becoming the first female safety inspector at the Federal Aviation Administration and working with the National Transportation Safety Board, according to Texas Monthly.

In a video posted on Bezos' Instagram account, Funk said she had taught over 3,000 people to fly. 

Blue Origin's New Shepard spacecraft — which was cleared for takeoff by the FAA on Monday — is scheduled for liftoff at 9 a.m. ET on July 20.

The flight will take Bezos 62 miles above Earth to the edge of space. Inside the spacecraft, Bezos and his fellow passengers will have three minutes to float around and view Earth from afar or gaze into the depths of outer space.

While Blue Origin's mission will be a major milestone — it's the first time the company has sent human passengers into space — it has since been slightly eclipsed by Virgin Galactic and its billionaire founder, Richard Branson. 

On Sunday, Branson and three crewmates flew 55 miles above Earth aboard Virgin's space plane, floated in zero gravity for about five minutes, and returned safely to Earth. 

Branson's flight — which beat Bezos' by nine days, a fact Branson called "an incredible, wonderful coincidence" — seemed to rankle Blue Origin, which said the flight wouldn't go high enough to truly count

Still, Virgin plans to start offering suborbital flights to space tourists next year, and has already sold 600 tickets to hopeful space tourists, including SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk — and, of course, Funk.

Bezos, Branson and the billionaire space race: What to watch when Amazon’s founder blasts off

GeekWire 14 July, 2021 - 04:22pm

Sir Richard Branson added new fuel to the billionaire space race July 11 when he and his Virgin Galactic crewmates floated in suborbital space.

“To all you kids down there, I was once a child with a dream, looking up to the stars,” Branson said before unbuckling. “Now, I’m an adult in a spaceship with lots of other wonderful adults, looking down to a beautiful, beautiful Earth. For the next generation of dreamers, if we can do this, just imagine what you can do.”

Can Jeff Bezos top that? We’ll soon find out. Amazon’s founder is set to go even higher as a passenger July 20 on the first crewed flight for his space venture Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket.

On Tuesday, the Federal Aviation Administration issued its formal approval for New Shepard’s launch, which will carry Bezos and three crewmates.

On this special episode of the GeekWire Podcast: the dawn of a new era in space tourism, what to watch when the Amazon founder blasts off next week, and what’s next for commercial space exploration.

Joining us is longtime space journalist Alan Boyle, GeekWire contributing editor, who has covered Bezos’ space ambitions for years.

Listen above, subscribe to GeekWire in any podcast app, and continue reading for edited highlights from Alan’s commentary.

What this launch means for Bezos and Blue Origin: I think that there’s a little bit of redemption here, because Blue Origin and Jeff Bezos have been working on this and other projects for a long time. And it’s a little bit elusive to see the payoff from all that.

He’s working on an orbital class rocket called New Glenn, which has been delayed. Blue Origin competed in a couple of high profile competitions for government contracts from NASA or the US Space Force, and they lost out on those.

So New Shepard is really going to be a signal success, and probably the highest success that Blue Origin has encountered in its more than 20 years of existence. If it works as Jeff Bezos hopes it will … then it is a sign that Blue Origin has actually achieved something having to do with human space flight, high-profile space flight. And if they can turn this into more successes, then Jeff Bezos’ vision has a much better chance of coming to fruition.

The personal risk to Bezos: There is a risk of death. That’s always the case when you have something that’s as explosive as a rocket ship that you’re dealing with. It was risky for Richard Branson also, even though that rocket plane has been tested. There are three people who lost their lives in the ground test, and one test pilot died in the course of testing SpaceShipTwo. So it is risky.

Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft has an escape system if something goes wrong. During the ascent of the rocket, there is a solid rocket motor that is supposed to light up, and push the passengers to safety, in case an emergency occurs. But it’s still rocket science, and there are things that can go wrong. Especially with this flight, I think there’s a lot more attention to it, because this is the first one to fly with people on it.

What this month means for space tourism: I think it’s a turning point. For a long time, I had talked about the two-year rule in private commercial space flight, that the era when regular folks fly in space always seems to be two years away. But now it’s less than two weeks away, perhaps. So I think that’s a big deal. It’s a big deal for the business of space flight.

Strangely enough, I am feeling like this is just becoming a business, and for people who are well-versed in science fiction and all that, and love Star Wars and Star Trek, maybe it loses a little bit of an appeal, because now, it’s just a business, and the filthy lucre is entering into the picture.

I’m of two minds about that. I’m kind of sad that it’s no longer science fiction, strangely enough. But I guess the day that we all had been thinking was coming some day down the road is really approaching its dates on the calendar.

Related: A tale of two spaceships: How Seattle tech titans helped launch suborbital space tours

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