July 21, 2021
Jeff Bezos, the richest human in the world, went to space on Tuesday, July 20—along 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.
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.
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