Liftoff! Jeff Bezos And Three Crewmates Travel To Space And Back In Under 15 Minutes
Wearing a cowboy hat under the West Texas morning sun, Jeff Bezos crossed the bridge to enter the capsule made by his company Blue Origin. He was accompanied by three others – his brother Mark Bezos, female aviation pioneer Wally Funk and 18-year-old Oliver Daemen.
Then the shuttle hatch closed and just before 9:15 a.m. ET, the four blasted into space on the first human flight on Blue Origin's New Shepard launch vehicle.
Updated July 20, 2021 at 9:36 AM ET
Bezos is the second billionaire this month to reach the edge of space: Richard Branson rocketed there last week aboard a vessel made by his company Virgin Galactic.
The date of the New Shepard's maiden launch is no accident: July 20 was the day in 1969 that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon.
The crew went 62 miles above Earth in minutes
The New Shepard suborbital flight path is designed to go higher than the Kármán Line, which is often considered the boundary of space: about 62 miles above Earth.
That line has been a sticking point in the space race between Bezos and Branson.
Branson's SpaceShipTwo hit a peak altitude of around 282,000 feet – higher than NASA's designated Earth-Space boundary of 50 miles, but short of the Kármán Line.
About three minutes into the flight, the booster separated from the crew capsule. Then the New Shepard passed the Kármán Line, with hoots of celebration heard over the in-shuttle audio.
A sonic boom was heard as the booster returned to Earth.
The capsule remained in the skies longer, floating against blue skies. At about the eight-minute mark of the flight, parachutes deployed from the capsule, to give the crew an easy touchdown.
The capsule touched down in the desert sand, and a soft plume of dust rose around them. All together, the mission lasted roughly 11 minutes from takeoff to touchdown.
After the capsule landed, cars arrived carrying crews to open the hatch and videographers to document the moment. Scant winds meant the capsule landed where it was expected to.
Jeff Bezos stepped off the capsule first, followed by Daemen. Then Funk emerged, her arms flung out in glee. Mark Bezos came out last, and the four embraced family and friends.
The start of a space tourism era
The launch is a big day for Bezos, but it's primarily an advertisement for Blue Origin's space tourism program. The company's webcast touted that interested viewers should get in touch about booking a spot on a future Blue Origin flight.
Two more flights are scheduled for 2021. [Copyright 2021 NPR]