World’s richest man Jeff Bezos and three others zoomed off into space for a few minutes on Tuesday aboard Blue Origin’s first human mission.
“A very happy group of people in this capsule,” said Bezos after the spaceship touched down in the west Texas desert following an 10-minute hop to the Karman line and back.
The four-member crew exchanged high-fives and hugged family who came to meet them at the landing site.
Before today, Bezos’s private space company, Blue Origin, had not flown its rocket with any people on board. By going first, Bezos wanted to prove that his vehicle is safe, and that Blue Origin is finally ready to make its 11-minute suborbital trips an experience people can buy.
The journey was lightning-fast by spaceflight standards. The Blue Origin rocket rose into the sky with a rumble that echoed across the West Texas desert, and about 11 minutes later, it was all over—the passenger capsule parachuted down, and the Bezos brothers, Funk, and Daemen climbed out, grinning widely. The rocket was back on the launchpad, standing tall, after tearing through the atmosphere with a sonic boom. For this crew, Blue Origin had made spaceflight feel almost as smooth as same-day shipping.
The New Shepard capsule reached at an altitude of 66.5 miles (107 kilometers), allowing the passengers to experience weightlessness while admiring the curve of the Earth.
“It’s dark up here,” said barrier-breaking female aviator Wally Funk, who joined Bezos, his brother and 18-year-old Dutchman Oliver Daemen, who became the youngest ever astronaut.
Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson made the voyage on July 11, narrowly beating the Amazon magnate in their battle of the billionaires.
But Blue Origin’s sights were set higher: both in the altitude to which its reusable New Shepard craft would ascend compared to Virgin’s spaceplane, and in its ambitions.
Bezos, 57, founded Blue Origin in 2000 with the goal of one day building floating space colonies with artificial gravity where millions of people will work and live.