This morning, Amazon founder and one of the wealthiest men in the entire world, Jeff Bezos, successfully achieved what he had been planning for years: reaching the very edge of Earth’s atmosphere aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket. While he wasn’t able to become the first billionaire in space, due to being scooped by Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic, this voyage is still a major milestone for commercial space travel.
A little after 9:00 AM this morning, the New Shepard lifted off from its western Texas launch site, containing Bezos, his brother Mark, former test pilot Wally Funk (who has set a new record for oldest person in space at 82 years old), and high school graduate Oliver Daemen (who has set a new record for the youngest person in space at 18 years old). The rocket shot into the sky, eventually reaching an altitude of 250,000 feet, where the capsule separated from the thrusters.
It was here, at the very border between the Earth’s atmosphere and space proper, that the passengers experienced roughly four minutes of complete weightlessness. Following this, the capsule descended back to Earth on deployed parachutes, eventually touching down safely in the Texas desert. When Bezos radioed to the control tower following touchdown, the first words out of his mouth were “Best day ever.”
This voyage is the first successful completion of a manned spaceflight for Blue Origin, establishing it as a firm competitors to the likes of Virgin Galactic and SpaceX. These three companies will likely form the backbone of commercial space travel in the not-too-distant future.
This is the moment Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man, lifted off into space aboard his Blue Origin spacecraft. https://t.co/FYxACjTzz3 pic.twitter.com/QIacxYNzPP
— CNN International (@cnni) July 20, 2021
“These guys are doing something that they think is fundamental to the future of humanity, and this is just an initial step,” Jim Cantrell, a former executive at SpaceX and current CEO of Phantom Space, told NBC.
“It’s entrepreneurs who have helped solve a lot of the problems on Earth,” he said. “People ought to welcome this spirit of exploration, because it’s the same kind of mentalities that found cures for diseases and gave us better medicines.”