Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and three other passengers successfully reached the lower regions of space in New Shepard, a re-usable craft developed by the entrepreneur’s Blue Origin aerospace company, a new step in efforts to commercialize space flight and open potential trips to the cosmos to a broader array of visitors.
Bezos was joined in his quest by his brother, Mark Bezos; Wally Funk, an 82-year-old who previously took part in NASA’s Mercury program, but was unable to get into space herself; and Oliver Daemen, a Dutch student just 18 years old.
The event was broadcast by Blue Origin itself, and U.S. TV networks had to use the private footage. But the passengers could be heard marveling at the sights and sounds of their brief but important journey and also checking safety protocols. “Best. Day. Ever.” Bezos could be heard uttering after landing.
Bezos’ flight takes place just days after another self-made billionaire, entrepreneur Richard Branson, reached space in a supersonic space plane developed by his company, Virgin Galactic. Both efforts have captured people around the globe, and spurred questions about whether their work makes space flight more viable for a broader array of potential entrants or simply represents a new hobby for the inordinately wealthy. Elon Musk’s SpaceX is also jockeying to get into the seeming race.
Blue Origin cameras showed an orderly process, though the countdown was stopped at the 15-minute mark for unknown reasons. Once lift off took place, however, New Shepard’s journey appeared to go without a hitch. Viewers could hear the passengers, experiencing weightlessness, being given a one-minute warning to strap back in before their descent. The passenger capsule detached from the rocket, which then fell back to earth and was guided to a pinpoint landing at the company’s launch pad in west Texas, Then the New Shepard capsule, slowed by three massive parachutes, fell back to earth and landed on the desert floor.