Jeff Bezos fulfills his dream of going into space...and opens the door to competition for space tourism (photos)
Jeff Bezos, the world's richest man, fulfilled his dream of going into space today aboard his company's first manned flight, Blue Origin, giving an extra boost to the fledgling space tourism industry.
The "New Shepard" missile, carrying a capsule carrying the four passengers, was launched minutes later than the original launch date, from an isolated location in the West Texas desert, 40 kilometers from the city of Van Horn.
Along with Jeff Bezos, his brother Mark, 82-year-old aviation pioneer Wally Funk, and 18-year-old Blue Origin's first customer, Dutch Oliver Damon, made the latter two of the oldest and youngest astronauts ever.
The New Shepard blasted off into space at three times the speed of sound using an engine running on liquid hydrogen and oxygen, meaning zero carbon emissions.
Then the capsule separated from the rocket, and the new astronauts spent a few minutes at an altitude of 107 km, beyond the Karman Line (100 km altitude), which is internationally recognized as the boundary between the Earth and space spheres.
The astronauts were able to contemplate the deep blue and black planet camped out over the rest of the universe from large windows that account for a third of the cabin space.
"It's all black here," Funk said, according to the live audio feed from the capsule.
After a few minutes of zero-gravity testing, the capsule descended in free fall before deploying three massive parachutes to descend smoothly into the desert after a flight of about ten minutes.
As they left the capsule, the four passengers, who were in good shape, were greeted with cries of joy from the Blue Origins teams, with Jeff Bezos wearing a cowboy hat.
The missile spontaneously returned to a landing platform near the launch site.
The mission comes on the 52nd anniversary of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin's first steps on the moon.
Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson crossed the boundaries of Earth's atmosphere on July 11, ahead of the former Amazon CEO in what appears to be a showdown between the rich in space.
However, Bezos, 57, insisted that "this is not a competition."
"The first person to reach space was Yuri Gagarin, and that happened a long time ago," he told NBC on Monday, referring to the Soviet cosmonaut who made the first manned flight into space in 1961. "It's about building a path into space for generations." coming to do amazing things there."
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