Jeff Bezos says he's going to space. In an Instagram post on Monday, Amazon's billionaire CEO announced that next month he will be aboard Blue Origin's rocket New Shepard on its maiden flight with people on board. Bezos called the trip "the thing I wanted to do all my life."
The flight will depart West Texas on July 20, just two weeks after he will officially step down from his current position as Amazon chief executive. Up to six astronauts, including Bezos' brother Mark, a volunteer firefighter and charity manager, will make the journey. Another civilian will also be included in the crew: Blue Origin is auction of a final citizen ticket. (The high bid was $2.8 million when Bezos announced his plans to join the flight.) Ultimately, Blue Origin hopes to launch satellites and offer space tourism flights.
However, Jeff Bezos will not travel into space. New Shepard was built to be suborbital, meaning it will reach the boundary between Earth and space. In general, the trip with the rocket should takes about 11 minutes.
While other billionaires outwardly have been more bombastic about their own personal aspirations to visit space, Bezos seems to have been training for his own journey into space for quite some time — and he's alluded to making the journey for years.
In 2013, journalist Brad Stone mused that Bezos wanted to go to space during… a town hall in Seattle.
“Some sort of interesting physical transformation, as Amazon has grown, Jeff is in pretty good shape now. He looked a little mushy and rumpled in the '90s,” Stone told New York Times journalist Nick Wingfield. he's obviously working out every day, and… the reason I bring that up is that I think he's in astronaut training."
It was four years later, in 2017, that a photo of Bezos looking particularly muscular at the 2017 Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference went viral even became a meme. Indeed, Bezos has dreamed of leaving Earth since at least 2000, when he founded Blue Origin in hopes of making it easier to go to space.
“The only way I can see putting that much funding into use is by turning my Amazon profits into space travel. It really is," Bezos said in 2018. "Blue Origin is expensive enough to use that fortune."
Blue Origin has launched the New Shepard rocket 15 times without a crew so far, although the rocket is designed to take tourists to space. Although it was originally planned for 2019, the expected date for human travel on the vehicle has been postponed. Blue Origin is also working on a rocket called New Glenn for orbital travel, and it will be able to deliver put payloads (and ultimately humans) into orbit.
Blue origin is one of many billionaire-backed space endeavors. Its main rival is SpaceX, the private space company headed by billionaire Elon Musk. Since 2002, SpaceX has focused on developing rockets to launch satellites into orbit and deliver payloads to the International Space Station (ISS). Last year, the company became the first private company to launch humans into space by sending four astronauts to the ISS, and is planning a trip with the civilian crew on At the end of this year. Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic has been researchers sign up to travel with its vehicles, although there is no launch date yet.
These 21st century aerospace companies are in serious competition. Because there aren't that many customers who need their services, SpaceX and others often fight for all the contracts government space agencies like NASA have to offer — like helping with plans to return to the moon — or letting lawmakers provide the money. that they need to continue launching. Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are also making their claims in the nascent industry of suborbital space tourism, hoping to make money to rich people seeking thrills.
Congratulations @JeffBezos & his brother Mark on the announcement of space flight plans. Jeff started building @blueorigin in 2000 we started building @virgingalactic in 2004 and now both open access to space – how extraordinary! Check out this space…
— Richard Branson (@richardbranson) June 7, 2021
But there is also a sense of personal competition: both Musk and branson have indicated that they also want to reach the space. Now Bezos is on his way to defeat them both by climbing aboard his own ship and demonstrating his confidence that this new era of civil spaceflight can work.