Amazon founder Jeff Bezos will attempt to make history tomorrow when his space company Blue Origin launches its first crewed mission to space after 15 uncrewed flights. Blue Origin hopes to launch its New Shepard rocket on 20 July at 1pm GMT from a site in west Texas.
On board the reusable rocket will be Bezos himself as well as his brother Mark Bezos and 82-year-old Mary Wallace Funk, known as Wally, who was a pioneering female astronaut trainee in 1961 but never got the opportunity to fly to space.
Also aboard will be 18-year-old Oliver Daemen, who will become the company’s first paying passenger as his financier father paid for the seat. Funk will be the oldest person to fly to space, and Daemen becomes the youngest.
An unnamed bidder who won an auction for the first paying seat on a Blue Origin launch with a bid of $28 million had to switch to a later flight “due to scheduling conflicts”.
The crew will reach an altitude of 100 kilometres and have around three minutes of weightlessness before strapping back into their seats for re-entry and landing in Texas just 11 minutes after take-off. The spacecraft is fully autonomous so the astronauts have no responsibilities and can enjoy the flight.
Chris Yeager at Blue Origin said in a pre-launch press conference that the rocket was “ready to fly” and that the date was chosen because it was 52 years to the day since Neil Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the moon. Weather forecasts for the time of launch are positive.
If successful, the flight will be the second tourist spaceflight this month. On July 11 Richard Branson reached the edge of space on Virgin Galactic flight. The billionaire narrowly become the first person to fly on a spacecraft of their own making, beating Bezos by a matter of days.