Jeff Bezos will be aboard Blue Origin’s first human flight, the Amazon billionaire has confirmed today, an audacious nod to the confidence he has in his company’s spacecraft. Bezos will be joined by his brother, Mark Bezos, aboard New Shepard when it launches on July 20, 2021.
“Ever since I was five years old, I’ve dreamed of traveling to space,” Bezos said of the decision. “On July 20th, I will take that journey with my brother. The greatest avenue, with my best friend.”
The announcement confirms the majority of New Shepard’s crew for its inaugural human flight. A further spot on the spacecraft is the prize in an ongoing public auction, with bidding currently at $2.8 million. Proceeds will go to Club for the Future, Blue Origin’s foundation which supports STEM efforts.
For Bezos, it’s a big step after announcing plans to pull back from day to day operations at Amazon. The retailer confirmed in February that Bezos’ role would be shifting to Executive Chair, whereupon he’ll be replaced by Andy Jassy as CEO. Last week, Bezos revealed that handover will take place on July 5, just 15 days before his space flight is scheduled to happen.
Blue Origin, the rocket company that Bezos founded, has both commercial and space tourism missions planned. This first crewed flight, though, will graze the edges of what’s accepted as space. New Shepard will cross the Kármán Line, a 62 mile boundary above Earth’s mean sea level that was an attempt at a legal definition for the boundary.
Zero-G will begin from the third minute into flight, and then at some point between and the flight’s highest point, or apogee, at four minutes, Bezos and the others onboard will officially pass into space. Gravity will return at approximately six minutes post-launch, with the parachutes deploying at nine minutes, and finally a landing at around 10 minutes after takeoff.
While the mission may be relatively short, space flight in general remains a risky prospect. Though Bezos, like many, may have harbored an eagerness to experience space since childhood, it’s also a huge indication of the faith the billionaire has in Blue Origin’s technology. New Shepard has been through 15 successful consecutive missions, and demonstrated three escape tests, with redundant systems both for flight and landing. Even if two of the capsule’s three parachutes were to fail, the third is still sufficient to bring it – and the crew onboard – safely down to Earth.