Bezos Blues Away To The Final Frontier

Jeff Bezos, as the world’s richest man, needs little introduction. Everybody knows about Amazon and Kindle, but a relatively lesser number of people are aware of his space company Blue Origin. Blue Origin lost the chance of winning a NASA contract in the recent past. And Jeff Bezos is well aware that his fledgling space enterprise needs momentum to break into the spaceflight sector in any meaningful way. Accordingly, Bezos has raised the stakes to their highest possible level by putting his, and his brother’s life on the line as the passengers of Blue Origin’s first crewed spaceflight mission.

Bezos, however, downplayed the risk and the business reasons behind it as he attributed his decision to the wishes of the explorer in him.

“I want to go on this flight because it’s the thing I’ve wanted to do all my life,” he said. The take-off is about a month away, July 20th, to be exact. It is intentional that the date marks the 52nd anniversary of Apollo 11’s moon landing.

Interestingly enough, there is a third passenger who happens to be the person winning an ongoing auction. Until June 7th, the highest bid stood at USD 2.8 million with another five days to go until the auction’s closing. The announcement regarding being in the excellent company surged by the bidding amounts to close at USD 4.8 million, which was only expected. The flight is slated for 10 minutes and will chart a sub-orbital path. Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin’s primary competitor in the suborbital spaceflight tourism sector, comes with a price tag of USD 250,000 per flight ticket as per the latest announced estimates. Another interesting difference between the flights offered by the two companies is that Virgin’s ships have human pilots while New Shepard comes with an autonomous flight mechanism.

The rocket and capsule, which have been named New Shepard, can accommodate six people. Shepard is undoubtedly an appropriate name as it conjures up memories of the Mass Effect protagonist Commander Shephard. Though this is indeed the first crewed launch of Blue Origin, the company has the experience of 15 previous test flights with its rocket and capsule. There are two primary components of New Shepard- a rocket and a capsule. The capsule, which will naturally house the passengers, has the convenience of a soft-landing courtesy of parachutes. In contrast, the rocket itself has a vertical powered touchdown.

But as might be evident from the history of spaceflight, previous success is by no means a guarantor of future success.

Spaceflight has a notorious reputation for its unpredictability in terms of safety. The name Kalpana Chawla comes to mind, and also the Columbia disaster, which claimed her life. But potential dangers have never stood in the way of humanity’s desire to explore and delve into the yet unknown.

As per the information given to Insider by Blue Origin, there have been over 6000 bidders spread across no less than 143 countries. But before taking the USD 4.8 million number as the final figure, keep in mind there is yet a final concluding live auction to make things all set and last.

Yet another exciting thing to know about the whole affair is that Bezos has no intentions to pocket the money. Instead, according to Blue Origin, the sum “will be donated to Blue Origin’s foundation, Club for the Future, to inspire future generations to pursue careers in STEM [science, technology, engineering, and math] and help invent the future of life in space,”

The move adds another dimension to the event, worthy of an adventure reality show exclusively streamed on Amazon Prime! Mark Bezos seems to echo this observation when he welcomes his brother Jeff to join him. As he said in a video, “I wasn’t even expecting him to say that he was going to be on the first flight, what a remarkable opportunity, not only to have this adventure but to do it with my best friend.”

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