Jeff Bezos Completes Blue Origin Spaceflight

Former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos successfully blasted off into space and returned safely to earth on Tuesday, in Blue Origin’s first human crewed spaceflight.

The flight onboard the New Shepard means that for the 11 minute flight at least, Jeff Bezos was no longer the richest man on the planet.

Bezos was joined by his brother Mark Bezos, and a 82-year-old woman called Wally Funk who had trained (unofficially) for NASA’s Mercury program back in the 1960s but was denied the opportunity to go to space.

New Shepard

The final astronaut was 18-year old teenager Oliver Daemen who was Blue Origin’s first paying customer, after his father, an investor, opted to give his son his ticket.

Funk and Daemen became the oldest and youngest people, respectively, ever to travel to space.

Daemen’s father had been next on the list, after an unmanned person who successfully bid $28 million (£20m) to win a seat on board, pulled out because of ‘scheduling conflicts.’

The four astronauts in the New Shepard crew capsule launched from Blue Origin’s launch site in rural West Texas, on the rocket that propelled them to more than 65 miles above the planet, reaching an altitude of 351,210 feet.

At the peak of the flight path, the passengers were weightless for about three minutes and were allowed to unstrap themselves from their seat to float around and take in panoramic views of the Earth and outer space.

The rocket which had detached from the capsule, successfully landed vertically on the launch pad, and the New Shepard capsule then floated back down to earth thanks to its parachutes.

The capsule landed in dessert and it took a few minutes before the Blue Origin crew reached the capsule, and then another five minutes or so before the crew could actually leave the capsule.

Jeff Bezos emerged wearing his cowboy hat and a big grin.

Virgin Galactic comparison

Bezos founded Blue Origin in 2000, just six years after he started Amazon, with the goal of making spaceflight more affordable and more accessible.

A few of his rivals in the industry – most notably Elon Musk and Richard Branson – both started their space ventures around the same time.

On the surface, having viewed both the Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin spaceflights, it seems that Sir Richard Branson’s venture was a much more polished affair after his successful launch nine days earlier from the mothership WhiteKnightTwo.

The rocketship SpaceShipTwo then flew the four passengers and two pilots to a maximum height of 53 miles above the Earth, which is high enough to reach NASA’s classification of ‘astronaut’.

After a slightly longer period of time being weightless, SpaceShipTwo then glided down to earth and landed smoothly on a runaway, where it was met almost instantly.

This was in contrast to Blue Origin, with the New Shepard capsule landing in the dessert dirt with no one immediately present, and the astronauts having to remain in the capsule for some time after landing.

The Virgin Galactic flight also included a lot of showbiz elements such as a music concert for the event, as well the addition of luxury items such as a waiting fleet of Range Rovers to ferry the Virgin Galactic astronauts back to Spaceport America.

Sir Richard even broadcast a live video from space, unlike Blue Origin which only seems to include the occasional audio clips from the astronauts.

Finally, because Virgin Galactic used a rocket plane which glides back to earth after reaching outer space, its entire journey took over 2 hours, unlike the 11 minute Blue Origin trip which seemed to be over very quickly by comparison.

Classy reaction

Virgin Galactic also responded to the Blue Origin flight in a much more classy way, “wishing the entire @blueorigin team a successful and safe flight from all of us @VirginGalactic.”

This was in marked contrast to the lack of good grace from Blue Origin, to Virgin Galactic being the first to carry passengers to outer space.

Blue Origin seemed to mock the Virgin Galactic achievement, and pointed out that New Shepard was designed to fly above the Kármán line, and that Virgin Galactic “only has ‘airplane-sized windows.”

Outer space is classified by the United States, the US Federal Aviation Administration, the US military and NASA as starting 50 miles above the earth’s surface, meaning Virgin Galactic passengers are actually classified as astronauts.

The international definition of space is known as the Kármán Line, an imaginary boundary 100 kilometers (62 miles) above mean sea level.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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