Posts tagged with "Blue Origin"

Want to be a space cowboy? Training camps are popping up all over

December 21, 2021

Space tourism is about to blast off. This year, Blue Origin, SpaceX and Virgin Galactic all sent everyday citizens into the stratosphere; and the Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa and his assistant became the ninth and tenth civilians to visit the International Space Station on Wednesday, December 8.

In 2022, the frequency of launches and the options for leaving Earth’s atmosphere will only increase, according to the Robb Report.

For citizen astronauts who want to boldly go where William Shatner has now finally gone—or anyone who’s even thinking about going—the journey starts with space training, which is increasingly accessible through a number of companies and at varying levels of intensity and expense.

“For someone who’s considering space travel, it’s the best way to get a taste of the experience,” says Tom Shelley, the president of Space Adventures in Vienna, Virginia. “Some people do it and feel they’ve gotten close enough, while others commit to a full program.”

Stellar Frontiers, a London-based training provider, recently set up a trip for a family of four to witness a rocket blast-off from close range. “There’s a lot of demand,” says CEO Geordie Mackay-Lewis, “but people want to understand it first. They think it’s uncomfortable and complex, so they want to get a sense of the experience.”

The simplest options range from launch viewings to a one-day visit to the Gargarin Cosmonaut Center in Star City, Russia, that includes a tour of the facility at the center of the Russian space program and a chance to try on an actual space suit.

Two- or three-day packages mix in multiple simulators, space-food taste testing, emergency drills, zero-gravity training, centrifugal G-force testing and spacewalk simulations. Finally, one- to three-month full-immersion programs match what ISS visitors experience and are available even to those who never want to leave Earth.

“We have some set packages, but we also put together custom programs,” says Shelley, whose company trained Maezawa. “Anything is possible depending on someone’s time commitment and budget.”

The multi-day packages can range from $20,000 to $100,000, but they include comforts that viewers of The Right Stuff could never imagine. Visits to Star City, which any of the companies can arrange, include five-star hotel accommodations and bespoke services.

“We’re adding a level of luxury and accommodation that are worthy of the experience,” says Nicolas Gaume, a long-time hospitality executive and co-founder of Orbite, a French company that plans to build the luxe Space Gateway Complex designed by Philippe Stark at an undisclosed location in the United States.

For now, Orbite holds sessions in the south of France and Orlando, Florida, that include zero-G and G-force testing and intense virtual reality simulations of the hanger, the various spacecraft available and the trip itself. “It gives you a chance to see the vehicles to scale and feel what the trip will be like,” says Gaume. “It’s real enough that we’ve had a few participants break down in tears from the beauty of the experience.”

The emotional and mental preparation for space is a surprising but potent aspect of training. “We’ve dispelled this myth that you have to be some sort of super fit, crazy adventurer to go to space,” says Shelley. “But many people who have gone have a deeply spiritual experience. Seeing the planet from above allows them to see how small and fragile it is. They come back changed.”

Indeed, Captain James T. Kirk was so moved he cried upon his return to Earth after just ten minutes on the edge of the final frontier.

Research contact: @RobbReport

To boldly go: William Shatner sets record in space with Blue Origin sub-orbital flight

October 14, 2021

William Shatner, the 90-year-old veteran of countless imaginary space voyages playing Star Trek’s Captain Kirk, blasted off for real Wednesday, October 13,—becoming the oldest person to reach the final frontier in a PR bonanza for Jeff Bezos and his rocket company Blue Origin, reports CBS News.

Over the course of about 11 minutes, Shatner and three crewmates took off atop a hydrogen-fueled rocket, climbed to edge of space more than 62 miles up and enjoyed three to four minutes of weightlessness, along with spectacular views of Earth, before plunging back to a gentle parachute-assisted touchdown.

“It was so moving to me,” Shatner said after landing. “This experience is something unbelievable.”

He said he was overwhelmed, and that Bezos has given him the most profound experience he can imagine. “I’m so filled with emotion about what just happened … it’s extraordinary,” he told Bezos.

“I hope I never recover from this. I hope that I can maintain what I feel now,” he said. “I don’t want to lose it.”

The flight marked only the second crewed launch of a New Shepard capsule since Bezos, his brother Mark, 82-year-old aviation pioneer Wally Funk, and Dutch teenager Oliver Daemen took off on July 20 on the company’s first such flight.

Shatner eclipsed Funk’s age record by eight years and John Glenn’s mark before that by 13.

“I want to see space, I want to see the Earth, I want to see what we need to do to save Earth,” Shatner told Gayle King on “CBS Mornings” before launch. “I want to have a perspective that hasn’t been shown to me before. That’s what I’m interested in seeing.”

Boshuizen and de Vries paid undisclosed sums for their seats aboard the New Shepard spacecraft, but Shatner was an invited guest of Blue Origin. Powers, a former NASA flight controller who is now Blue Origin vice president of flight operations, flew as a company representative.

While the New Shepard rocket and capsule are only capable of up-and-down sub-orbital flights, Shatner and his crewmates endured the same liftoff accelerations space shuttle astronauts once felt—about three times the normal force of gravity — and even higher “G loads” during descent back into the lower atmosphere.

Even so, Shatner and his crewmates were considered passengers, not astronauts, aboard the automated New Shepard. But professional astronauts nonetheless welcomed them to the brotherhood of space travelers.

I’m impressed. I mean, he’s 90 years old and showing that somebody at his age can actually fly to space,” Matthias Maurer, a European Space Agency astronaut launching to the International Space Station at the end of the month, told CBS News.

“Even if it’s, let’s say, just a sub-orbital flight, I’m highly impressed, and I wish him all the best. Hopefully it will be the experience of a lifetime. And yeah, I hope many more people will follow his steps and also experience space.”

Blue Origin’s 18th New Shepard flight began at 10:49 a.m. (EDT) when the BE-3 engine powering the company’s 53-foot-tall booster ignited with a roar, throttled up to 110,000 pounds of thrust and lifted off from Launch Site One at the company’s West Texas launch site near Van Horn.

Climbing straight up, the booster quickly accelerated as it consumed propellant and lost weight, reaching a velocity of about 2,200 mph and an altitude of some 170,000 feet before engine shutdown.

The New Shepard capsule then separated from the booster at an altitude of about 45 miles and both continued climbing upward on ballistic trajectories, but rapidly slowing.

The onset of weightlessness began shortly after separation. All four passengers were free to unstrap and float about as the capsule reached the top of its trajectory and arced over for the long fall back to Earth. The New Shepard capsule is equipped with some of the largest windows in a currently flying spacecraft, giving Shatner, de Vries, Boshuizen and Powers picture-window views of Earth far below.

Plunging back into the dense lower atmosphere, the passengers, back in their padded, reclining seats, were briefly subjected to more than five times the normal force of gravity before three large parachutes deployed and inflated, slowing the craft to about 15 mph, CBS News reports.

An instant before touchdown, compressed-air thrusters were programmed to fire, slowing the ship to just 2 mph or so for landing.

A few minutes earlier, the New Shepard booster flew itself back to a pinpoint landing a few miles away, reigniting its BE-3 engine, deploying four landing legs and settling to a concrete landing pad. Assuming no problems are found, the rocket will be refurbished and prepared for another flight.

The mission marked the sixth piloted commercial, non-government sub-orbital spaceflight in a high-stakes competition between Bezos’ Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, owned by British billionaire Richard Branson.

Research contact: @CBSNews

Forever young? Jeff Bezos is backing anti-aging startup Altos Labs

September 8, 2021

Amazon and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos is pushing the envelope—on marketing, on suborbital space travel, and now on longevity. He is among a group of investors backing a new anti-aging company, according to a new report obtained by Fox News.

The company, Silicon Valley-based Altos Labs, is working on biological reprogramming technology that is targeted at essentially prolong human life, according to MIT Tech Review.

A Russian-born billionaire tech investor, Yuri Milner, and his wife, Julia, also have invested in the company, according to the report. Milner—who is known for investing in companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Spotify and Airbnb—is worth about $4.8 billion, according to Forbes’ estimates.

Altos was incorporated earlier this year in the United States and the United Kingdom; and has plans to create institutes in California, Cambridge, and Japan, according to the report obtained by Fox News.  

It’s also reportedly seeking university scientists with deep pockets dedicated to researching how to reverse the process of aging cells.

Bezos’ investment office, Bezos Expeditions, did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.

However, this isn’t the first time the world’s richest man has invested in this kind of research.  The 57-year-old Bezos has also invested in the startup company Unity Biotechnology, the New York Post reported.

Unity, according to its website, is working to develop a “new class of therapeutics to slow, halt, or reverse diseases of aging.”

Representatives for Unity did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.

Research contact: @FoxNews

What will it cost for tourists to fly on Blue Origin?

July 21, 2021

Jeff Bezos, the richest human in the world, went to space on Tuesday, July 20along with a small group that also comprised the oldest person ever to fly so high and the youngest.  It was a brief jaunt—rising more than 65 miles into the sky above West Texas—in a spacecraft that was built by Bezos’ rocket company, Blue Origin, reports  The New York Times.

“Best day ever,” Mr. Bezos exclaimed once the capsule had settled back into the dust near the launch site following the 11-minute journey.

The other three passengers were Bezos’ brother, Mark; Oliver Daemen, a Dutch student who was Blue Origin’s first paying passenger; and Mary Wallace Funk, a pilot who in the 1960s was among a group of women who passed the same rigorous astronaut selection criteria employed by NASA but who, until Tuesday, never had the chance to board a rocket.

For the first flight, Blue Origin auctioned off one of the seats with the proceeds going to Mr. Bezos’ space-focused nonprofit, Club for the Future. The winning bid was $28 million, an amount that stunned even Blue Origin officials, far higher than they had hoped. Blue Origin announced it will distribute $19 million of that to 19 space-related organizations — $1 million each.

The 7,600 people who participated in the auction provided Blue Origin with a list of prospective paying customers, and the company has started selling tickets for subsequent flights.

Blue Origin has declined to say what the price is or how many people have signed up, but representatives of the company have told the Times that there is strong demand.

“Our early flights are going for a very good price,” Bob Smith, the chief executive of Blue Origin, said during a news conference on Sunday, July 18.

During the auction for the seat on Tuesday’s flight, the company said that auction participants could buy a seat on subsequent flights. It has not publicly stated what it charged those who placed bids, or how many seats have been sold.

Ariane Cornell, director of Astronaut and Orbital Sales at Blue Origin, said that two additional flights are planned for this year. “So we have already built a robust pipeline of customers that are interested,” she said.

Virgin Galactic, the other company offering suborbital flights, has about 600 people who have already bought tickets. The price was originally $200,000 and later raised to $250,000, but Virgin Galactic stopped sales in 2014 after a crash of its first space plane during a test flight. Virgin Galactic officials say they will resume sales later this year, and the price will likely be higher than $250,000.

Research contact: @nytimes

Jeff Bezos and brother to be on Blue Origin’s first human space flight

June 8, 2021

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos said in an Instagram post on Monday, June 7, that he will be one of the inaugural travelers on Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital spacecraft, during a flight scheduled for launch from West Texas on July 20, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Bezos said that his brother, Mark Bezos, also will be among the crew members in the pressurized capsule, which has room for six astronauts.

Named after NASA’s Mercury astronaut Alan Shepard, the first American to go to space, New Shepard is a reusable suborbital rocket system designed to take astronauts and research payloads past the Kármán line—the internationally recognized boundary of space.

The vehicle is fully autonomous. Every person onboard is a passenger—there is no “pilot” for the 11-minute flight, which will return to Earth via parachute.

“I want to go on this flight because it’s a thing I’ve wanted to do all my life,” Bezos said in a video posted to Instagram. “It’s an adventure. It’s a big deal for me.”

Bezos, who has said that he will step down as Amazon’s chief executive on July 5 after leading the company for more than two decades, has invested heavily in Blue Origin, contributing as much as roughly $1 billion in some years. He will continue to hold the title executive chairman after his lieutenant Andy Jassy becomes CEO.

Blue Origin has said it aims to support widespread commercial activity in space in the future. In addition to its space-tourism efforts, Blue Origin is also working on rockets that could launch payloads for NASA.

The passenger list for Blue Origin’s July flight also is set to include the winner of a charity auction that will conclude this month. The auction boasted nearly 6,000 participants and the highest bid is at $2.8 million, Blue Origin said Monday.

According to the Journal, Blue Origin’s efforts to commercialize spaceflight parallel those of SpaceX—the spaceflight company led by Tesla  CEO Elon Musk.

SpaceX last year became the first company to launch NASA astronauts into space.

Both companies competed to design a new capsule that could land astronauts on the moon before NASA awarded the contract to SpaceX in April. Blue Origin has filed a petition challenging the contract award.

Billionaire Richard Branson also has invested in commercial spaceflight. Virgin Galactic Holdings, a company he founded that also plans to offer space tourism, went public in a 2019 merger with a blank-check company.

Research contact: @WSJ

Most Americans are not up for space tourism

June 8, 2018

It’s summertime and many of us want to “get away from it all”—but not so far away that we see Earth in our rear-view mirrors. While a host of companies are trying to make space tourism a consumer trend—among them, Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Elon Musks’s SpaceX—most U.S. adults say they would not want to go up to (and past) the wild blue yonder, based on findings of a poll conducted by Pew Research Center and released on June 7.

About four-in-ten Americans (42%) say they would definitely or probably be interested in orbiting the Earth in a spacecraft in the future, while roughly six-in-ten (58%) say they would not give it a go.

Interest in space travel is highest among those who are young at heart and men. A majority (63%) of Millennials are on-board with the idea; however only minorities of Gen Xers (39%) and Baby Boomer (27%) would be interested. About half of men (51%) say they would be interested in orbiting the Earth in a spacecraft, compared with one-third of women (33%).

Among the 42% of Americans who said they would be interested in traveling into space, the most common reason given (by 45% of respondents) was to “experience something unique.” Smaller shares of this group said they would want to be able to view the Earth from space (29%) or “learn more about the world” (20%).

Among the 58% who said they would not want to orbit the Earth aboard a spacecraft, equal shares said the main reason was that such a trip would be either “too expensive” (28%) or “too scary” (28%) or that their age or health wouldn’t allow it (28%).

Men were more likely than women to say the main reason they would not be interested in orbiting the Earth in a spacecraft was that it would be too expensive (37% vs. 22%), but women were more inclined than men to say they would not want to go because it would be too scary (34% vs. 18%).

The respondents also talked about their expectations for space tourism in the next 50 years. The public is split over whether this will happen, with half saying that people will routinely travel in space as tourists by 2068 and half saying this will not happen. Americans are more skeptical about the possibility of colonies on other planets – an endeavor championed by space entrepreneurs Elon Muskand Jeff Bezos. About one-third of Americans (32%) say people will build colonies on other planets that can be lived in for long periods by 2068.

Research contact: info@pewresearch.org