Billionaire blastoff: Jeff Bezos to follow Branson into space

Space Science

Jeff Bezos, chief executive officer of Inc. and founder of Blue Origin LLC, smiles while speaking at the unveiling of the Blue Origin New Shepard system during the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, U.S., on Wednesday, April 5, 2017. Bezos has been reinvesting money he made at Amazon since he started his space exploration company more than a decade ago, and has plans to launch paying tourists into space within two years. Photographer: Matthew Staver/Bloomberg via Getty Images

MYSTERY WIRE — Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is set to travel to space on Tuesday (July 20), on the 52nd anniversary of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s Apollo 11 moon landing.

It will be space exploration company Blue Origin’s first flight with a crew. Bezos will be joined by joined by his brother, an 82-year-old female aviation pioneer, and an 18-year-old who will become the youngest person in space.

FILE – In this Thursday, May 9, 2019, file photo, Jeff Bezos speaks at an event before unveiling Blue Origin’s Blue Moon lunar lander, in Washington. On Monday, July 12, 2021, the Federal Aviation Administration approved Blue Origin’s attempt to launch people into space. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

The lucrative, high stakes chase for space tourists is unfolding on the fringes of space.

After Virgin Galactic’s billionaire founder Richard Branson rode his own rocket plane to space on Sunday (July 11), Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man, is set to follow this Tuesday (July 20).

Bezos’ rocket company recently got government approval to launch people into space, himself included. The Federal Aviation Administration issued its OK on Monday (July 12). The license is good through August.

The Amazon founder will climb atop his New Shepard rocket on Tuesday in West Texas.

Blue Origin’s flight – featuring an automated capsule launched atop a reusable booster – should reach a maximum altitude of roughly 66 miles (106 kilometers) before parachuting into the desert.

It will be the first launch with passengers for Blue Origin, which like Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic plans to start flying paying customers in the months ahead. Blue Origin expects to announce prices and open ticket sales once Bezos flies.    

Bezos stepped down as Amazon CEO this month. He founded Blue Origin in 2000.

In a blog post to employees earlier this year, Bezos said he planned to devote more time to side projects, including Blue Origin, his philanthropic initiatives and overseeing The Washington Post, which he owns.  

He’ll be bringing along his younger brother Mark, an investor and volunteer firefighter.

He’ll also be taking female aviation pioneer Wally Funk.

Funk is among the so-called Mercury 13 women who went through astronaut training in the 1960s, but never made it to space – or even NASA’s astronaut corps – because they were female.

Back then, all of the NASA astronauts were military test pilots and male.

At age 82, Funk will become the oldest person to launch into space. She’ll beat the late John Glenn, who set a record at age 77 when flying aboard space shuttle Discovery in 1998.

They will be joined on the flight by an 18-year-old who is about to become the youngest person in space, rocketing away with an aviation pioneer who will become the oldest at age 82.

Blue Origin announced Thursday that instead of a $28 million auction winner launching with founder Jeff Bezos on Tuesday, Dutch runner-up Oliver Daemen will be on board.

The company said he’ll be the first paying customer, but did not disclose the price of his ticket.

The four will blast off from West Texas atop a New Shepard rocket for a 10-minute flight.

Virgin Galactic’s billionaire founder Richard Branson rode his own rocket plane to space on Sunday, accompanied by five company employees.

A specially designed aircraft carried the winged ship aloft over New Mexico. The space plane then dropped away, fired its rocket motor, and soared to 53.5 miles (86 kilometers), before gliding to a runway touchdown.

Joining Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic in the chase for space tourists is Elon Musk’s SpaceX. But SpaceX plans to send its customers into orbit, not on brief up-and-down hops.

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