VAN HORN, Texas, U.S. (AP) – Jeff Bezos flew into space Tuesday on his space tourism company’s first flight with passengers on board, becoming the second billionaire in a week traveling to the confines of the Earth’s atmosphere in your own rocket.
“Best day ever!” Bezos said as the capsule landed in the desert at the end of the 10-minute flight.RELATED
The Amazon founder was joined by a group that included his brother, a Dutch teenager, and an 82-year-old aviation pioneer, making these last two people the youngest and oldest traveling to the world. space.
Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket, named after the first American astronaut, took flight with his eclectic group of passengers on the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Bezos chose the date for its historical significance and stuck to his decision to Though it did allow Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson to beat him nine days in the race for space tourist dollars, with his own flight from New Mexico.
Unlike Branson’s piloted rocket plane, Bezos’s capsule was fully automated and required no crew on board for the round trip. Branson’s Virgin Galactic rocket requires two pilots.
The Blue Origin spacecraft reached an altitude of 106 kilometers (66 miles), about 16 kilometers (10 miles) more than Richard Branson’s flight on July 11. The 18-meter (60-foot) rocket accelerated to Mach3 – or three times the speed of sound – to bring the capsule to the desired height, before separating and descending into a vertical position.
The passengers were weightless for several minutes and video showed the four floating inside the spacious white capsule. They were seen somersaulting, throwing candy and balls. They were heard cheering, yelling and exclaiming “wow.” The capsule descended with the aid of a parachute, and the passengers briefly experienced a force of gravity six times normal on Earth.
Led by Bezos, they came out of the capsule with a smile, hugged their relatives, friends and children and celebrated with bottles of sparkling wine, spraying each other.
“My expectations were high and they were spectacularly exceeded,” Bezos said later.
Their flight lasted 10 minutes and 10 seconds, five minutes less than Alan Shepard’s flight in 1961. Shepard’s daughters, Laura and Julie, were introduced at a press conference a few hours later.
With Bezos traveled his younger brother Mark and Wally Funk, one of 13 pilots who trained in the early 1960s for NASA’s Mercury project but ultimately did not make it to space.
“I’ve been waiting a long time to finally get it,” Funk said after the flight. “I want to go again, fast,” he added.
Joining them was the company’s first paying customer, Oliver Daemen, a Dutch university student whose father was one of the bidders for a million-dollar auction. Daemen was a last-minute replacement for the mysterious auction winner, who opted to take a later flight. The Dutch teenager’s father participated in the auction and agreed to pay an undisclosed lower price last week, when Blue Origin offered his son the vacant seat.