plans to travel to suborbital space next month as one of the first passengers carried by Blue Origin, the
founder’s space company.
Mr. Bezos said in an Instagram post Monday that he will be one of the inaugural passengers on Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft, during its first crewed flight scheduled for launch from West Texas on July 20. Mr. Bezos said that his brother, Mark Bezos, will also be on board.
“I want to go on this flight because it’s a thing I’ve wanted to do all my life,” Mr. Bezos said in a video posted to Instagram. “It’s an adventure. It’s a big deal for me.”
Mr. Bezos, who is stepping down as Amazon’s chief executive July 5 after leading the company for more than two decades, has invested heavily in Blue Origin, contributing as much as roughly $1 billion a year through sales of Amazon stock. Mr. Bezos, who already serves as Amazon’s chairman, will hold the title executive chairman after his lieutenant
The passenger list for Blue Origin’s July flight is also set to include the winner of a charity auction that will conclude this month. The auction has had nearly 6,000 participants and the highest bid is at $2.8 million, Blue Origin said Monday. The company said the winner will be decided in a live auction slated for Saturday.
The New Shepard capsule has room for six people and is fully autonomous. A rocket is designed to propel the craft briefly above the Karman Line—an imaginary boundary about 62 miles above sea level that is considered the beginning of space—before the capsule returns to the ground beneath a parachute 10 minutes after launch.
Mr. Bezos and his brother can expect to travel at three times the speed of sound and experience three times the force of gravity during their planned trip. The New Shepard rocket has made 15 uncrewed test flights so far, and prospective astronauts will have three days of training before flying, Ariane Cornell, Blue Origin’s sales director, said last month.
Blue Origin has said it aims to support widespread commercial activity in space in the future. In addition to its space-tourism efforts, the company is also working on rockets that could launch payloads for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Pentagon.
Blue Origin’s efforts to commercialize space flight parallel those of SpaceX, the rocket company led by
Space Exploration Technologies Corp. last year became the first company to launch NASA astronauts into space.
While their spaceflight projects progress, Mr. Bezos and Mr. Musk have also been trading places this year as the world’s richest person as Amazon and Tesla shares rise and fall. Mr. Musk overtook Mr. Bezos for the top spot in January, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, but Mr. Bezos has since reclaimed the highest ranking.
For their space-tourism efforts, Blue Origin and other companies including
Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc.
are targeting suborbital commercial space flight, where crew members are weightless for minutes and don’t have to endure the rigors of training for longer periods in space.
Virgin Galactic, founded by billionaire Richard Branson, went public in a 2019 merger with a blank-check company. Its spacecraft, which shoots into the lower portions of space after being dropped by a highflying airplane, has carried professional pilots on test flights. Mr. Branson plans to be one of the first space tourists the company will carry, CEO
said last month.
As suborbital spaceflight promises to ease passenger requirements, Mr. Bezos’s trip would make him one of a small number of amateurs who have flown in space. As NASA’s space-shuttle missions became more routine in the 1980s, the agency added nonprofessionals to some crews. Congressmen Jake Garn and Bill Nelson were among the participants on shuttle missions. Mr. Nelson was sworn in last month as NASA administrator.
In 1986, NASA planned to open space flight to more amateurs by including a high-school teacher, Christa McAuliffe, as a crew member on a flight of the Challenger space shuttle. The spacecraft exploded seconds after it was launched because of an engineering defect, killing all on board. The tragedy largely ended NASA’s ambitions to take amateurs on its missions.
Other nonprofessionals have visited space on Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft. The first person to fund such a trip himself, Dennis Tito, paid for a multiday flight to the International Space Station in 2001. Space Adventures Inc., the Virginia-based company that organized Mr. Tito’s trip, has since sent six other civilians into space on Soyuz rockets, with another such trip planned for later this year.
Russian space agency Roscosmos said last month that it separately plans to send a film director and an actress to the space station this year to film scenes for a movie.
SpaceX also wants to launch nonprofessionals into space in 2021. The company has already sent experienced astronauts to the space station aboard its Dragon capsule. It intends to send four passengers on a multiday trip into orbit in September using the capsule.
Mr. Musk has previously said he started SpaceX so he could travel to Mars, but hasn’t detailed when he would take his first trip to space.
“I would like to die on Mars—just not on impact,” Mr. Musk said in 2013 at the South by Southwest festival.
—Doug Cameron contributed to this article.
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