Jeff Bezos flies to space in picture-perfect launch and landing
It was in the year 2000 when Jeff Bezos, who had just started capturing the US e-commerce market with Amazon, decided to make his childhood dream of becoming an astronaut a reality and Blue Origin came to life. Two decades and 15 uncrewed launches later, the 57-year-old billionaire soared into space on his company’s New Shepard spacecraft on Tuesday.
“Best day ever, it was incredible,” said Jeff Bezos after landing back on Earth and becoming the 571st astronaut to soar into space.
Bezos was strapped onboard the autonomous capsule along with three other crew members, including a paying customer. The billionaire founder, who had announced earlier this month that he will be focussing on Blue Origin after stepping down from the top rank in Amazon, was joined by his brother Mark on the emotional journey.
“It’s my generation’s job to build the road to space so that the next generation can unleash creativity,” Bezos said. The new flight marks the beginning of a new era for the company, which has been in tough competition with SpaceX for commercial space operations.
A 10-minute-long journey
Bezos and the three other crew members moved into the tower to begin preparations for the crew capsule load-in 45 minutes before the flight and as they entered the capsule the hatch was closed 24 minutes prior to the launch
The spacecraft lifted off from the Texas site reaching a top speed of Mach 3, three times the speed of sound. Three minutes into the flight, New Shepard separated from the booster and the passengers began experiencing zero gravity and weightlessness as they unbuckled from their seats. At four minutes, New Shepard crossed the Karman line, entering space, while the boosters began their journey back to Earth.
As they arrived in space Wally Funk was heard shouting, “It’s dark up here, and we are at 3000 miles per hour.”
Six minutes into the flight, Bezos, and crew strapped themselves back onto their seats as the spacecraft began the descent. The first parachute was deployed at nine minutes, slowing the capsule to a speed of 26 kilometers per hour. The capsule landed safely in the desert at a speed of 1.6 kilometers per hour, where the rescue and recovering team was waiting.
Who’s who on the first New Shepard trip to space?
Jeff Bezos was accompanied on the trip by his brother Mark, a financier who directs the Bezos Family Foundation and works as a volunteer firefighter. He has been part of the Blue Origin story since its beginning and the trip came as a surprise to mark, who is six years younger than Jeff.
The third crew member was 82-year-old Wally Funk, a pilot, who had qualified every test required to become an astronaut in the 1960s but was sidestepped when the Mercury program was shelved. Funk has over 16,000 hours of flying under her belt and has flown almost every aircraft from fighters to trainers.
The last and the fourth crew member became the youngest member to travel into space at 18 years. A high school graduate, he got the call to join Bezos days ahead of the flight after another bidder, who won an auction for the fourth seat by a paying a whooping $28 million. Daemen’s ticket was paid for by his father, the CEO of a private equity firm, as he became the first paying customer.
What happens next?
As the New Shepard spacecraft displayed its capability of taking tourists into space and then safely returning them back on Earth, the company is now set to conduct two more crew flights by the end of this year as tickets go for sale. “We have built the system to go on forever and take hundreds and thousands of astronauts into space,” the company has said.
Second billionaire to go into space
Jeff Bezos became the second billionaire to go into space after Sir Richard Branson, who flew to the edge of space on July 11 in his company, Virgin Galactic’s Unity 22 flight. The two billionaires have been in a tight race to dominate the era of space tourism, which is likely to be reserved for the wealthy and the ultra-rich for now.
The 90-minute-long flight had pushed Virgin Galactic ahead of Blue Origin and Elon Musk SpaceX, which has largely ferried astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) along with commercially transporting cargo to and from the flying laboratory. Branson’s rocket-powered spacecraft was piloted by chief pilot David Mackay, a Scottish-born test pilot for the Royal Air Force, and chief flight instructor Michael Masucci unlike Bezos’ New Shepard, which was autonomous. The other passengers include India-born Sirisha Bandla, vice president for Virgin Galactic government affairs, who became the fourth Indian to travel to space.
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