Exactly 52 years after America’s moon landing, in a landmark space flight of many “firsts”, world’s richest person, Amazon and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos, left Earth, spent 11 minutes in space, and came back safely to his home planet as part of a crew which also boasted the youngest and oldest space travelers so far.
In the spacecraft built by his own company Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos, whose net worth recently reached $211 billion, was accompanied by his brother Mark Bezos, 18-year-old Dutch physics student Oliver Daemen and 82-year-old female aviation pioneer Wally Funk, who was once trained by NASA to go to space but never had the chance till now.
The shuttle blasted off into space at around 9:15 am ET in what became the first human flight on the New Shepard launch vehicle developed by Blue Origin, and named after Alan Shepard, the first American to fly in space.
Bezos is only the second billionaire to fly to space this month, after Richard Branson beat him on July 11 on a vessel constructed by his own space company, Virgin Galactic.
However, July 20, the date of Bezos’ much-talked-of and much-anticipated flight was chosen to be the same as the day when US astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon back in 1969.
The path of the New Shepard suborbital flight was designed so it would go beyond the Kármán Line, about 62 miles above Earth, which is deemed the boundary of space.
Unlike Bezos’ flight, Branson’s flight earlier this month on his SpaceShipTwo reached an altitude of 282,000 feet, which is higher than NASA’s 50-mile Earth-Space boundary but below the Karman Line.
The booster split off from the crew capsule of the New Shepard about 3 minutes into the flight, after which the spaceship passed the Karman Line.
As the booster returned to Earth, a sonic boom could be heard, while the capsule remained in space longer, and the space travelers – referred to as astronauts by Blue Origin – were allowed to unbuckle for a while.
“Who wants a Skittle?” one of the Bezos brothers was heard saying at this point. On the eighth minute of the flight, the capsule’s parachutes were deployed, allowing it to descend easily onto the desert sand.
Bezos’ entire long-anticipated “to space and back”, from takeoff to touchdown, lasted about 11 minutes.
Jeff Bezos was the first to step off the capsule, followed by Daemen, then Funk, and Mark Bezos.