Before Jeff Bezos successfully headed into space on Tuesday, his counterparts in the billionaire space race, SpaceX’s Elon Musk and Virgin Galactic’s Sir Richard Branson, wished him well.
Musk, 50, tweeted, ‘Best of luck tomorrow [Tuesday morning] before Bezos, 57, his 53-year-old brother Mark, Mary Wallace ‘Wally’ Funk and 18-year-old physics student Oliver Daemen headed to space on Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket.
SpaceX’s Elon Musk wished Blue Origin’s Jeff Bezos well on his flight to space. Musk, 50, tweeted, ‘Best of luck tomorrow [Tuesday morning]
At 82, Funk became the oldest person to fly to space, surpassing former NASA astronaut John Glenn, while Daemen was the youngest.
The launch took place at 9:12am EST and saw the crew go up into space to experience weightlessness for about four minutes, before falling back to Earth.
Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson, who became the first billionaire in space, also wished Bezos well
Richard Branson flew 53 miles above the New Mexico desert during his July 15 trip to space
Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson, who became the first billionaire in space earlier this month, beating his rivals, also wished Bezos well.
‘Best wishes [Jeff Bezos] and the Blue Origin crew from all of us at Virgin Galactic,’ Branson wrote on Bezos’ Instagram.
Branson also congratulated the group upon their return to Earth, calling the feat ‘impressive.’
The four astronauts flew 66 miles above the surface of the Earth on the fully autonomous rocket and capsule New Shepard, sending Bezos 13 miles higher than billionaire rival Sir Richard Branson who flew to space on July 11.
The group traveled in a capsule with the biggest windows flown into space, offering stunning views of the Earth, according to the space tourism company.
Space tourism is likely to be a competitive market, as Virgin Galactic has sold more than 700 seats at $250,000 for a single seat to the edge of space. In contrast, Bezos announced Blue Origin has sold over $100 million worth of tickets, but the company has not yet disclosed the price of a seat.
Bezos, 57, along with the three other astronauts, will fly up to 66 miles above the surface of the Earth on the fully autonomous rocket and capsule New Shepard
Blue Origin named the New Shepard program after astronaut Alan Shepard, who was the first American to fly into space exactly 60 years ago.
Fifteen previous test flights of the reusable rocket, which brings the capsule to an altitude of more than 340,000 fleet, and capsule since 2015 – short hops lasting about 10 minutes – were all successful.
Musk’s SpaceX is competing with Bezos’ Blue Origin for lucrative government contracts
Not only are Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic and SpaceX are competing for media attention and the democratization of space, but all three are vying for lucrative government contracts, particularly Blue Origin and SpaceX.
According to The Wall Street Journal, SpaceX has received $2.8 billion in 52 contracts from NASA and the Pentagon over the past 14 federal fiscal years.
By comparison, Blue Origin, founded in 2000, has received $496.5 million in 33 contracts.
Both Blue Origin and SpaceX (along with Dynetics) received lucrative NASA contracts in 2020 to build lunar landing systems to carry NASA astronauts for Artemis moon missions.
A NASA spokesperson eventually confirmed Blue Origin would receive $579 million, while SpaceX and Dynetics would receive $135 million and $253 million, respectively.
On July 13, Blue Origin received approval Monday from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to carry humans on the New Shepard rocket into space on July 20.
New Shepard, which stands 60 feet tall, was specifically designed for Blue Origin’s space tourism venture and has successfully completed 15 test launches, with the latest on April 14.
The capsule that rides atop New Shepard seats six passengers and is equipped with reclining seats.
Each of the seats has a window that are said to the ‘the largest to fly into space.’
Cameras line the interior, allowing travelers to share their memories that are truly out of this world.
The crew traveled 66 miles above Earth’s surface, where they experienced weightlessness due to the zero gravity and see the curve of the planet with the darkness of space as the backdrop.
Blue Origin’s maiden voyage traveled farther than Branson’s who reached an altitude of 53.5 miles over the New Mexico desert before gliding safely back to Earth.
The billionaire space race is fueled by optimism that space travel will become mainstream as nascent technology is proven and costs fall, fueling what UBS estimates could be a $3 billion annual tourism market by 2030.
Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, as well as Musk’s SpaceX, have also discussed using their rockets to link far-flung global cities.
UBS says that long-haul travel market could be worth more than $20 billion, though several barriers such as air-safety certification could derail the plans.
Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas said: ‘Putting the world’s richest man and one of the most recognized figures in business into space is a massive advertisement for space as a domain for exploration, industrialization and investment.’
Blue Origin has not divulged its pricing strategy for future trips.
In 2018 that Blue Origin was planning to charge passengers at least $200,000 for the ride, based on a market study and other considerations, though its thinking may have changed.
Washington state-based Blue Origin is largely self funded by Bezos, who has been selling over $1 billion worth of stock in Amazon per year to fund the company.
While celebrities and the uber-rich appear to be a core market for space tourist jaunts, at least initially, industry sources expect Blue Origin to include some philanthropic component to its ticket strategy.
The idea of sending paying customers to the edge of space was once only a plot in science fiction films, but many companies other than Blue Origin are turning the epic journey into a reality.
THE BILLIONAIRE SPACE RACE: HOW BRANSON, MUSK AND BEZOS ARE VYING FOR GALACTIC SUPREMACY
Jeff Bezos in front of Blue Origin’s space capsule
Dubbed the ‘NewSpace’ set, Jeff Bezos, Sir Richard Branson and Elon Musk all say they were inspired by the first moon landing in 1969, when the US beat the Soviet Union in the space race, and there is no doubt how much it would mean to each of them to win the ‘new space race’.
Amazon founder Bezos had looked set to be the first of the three to fly to space, having announced plans to launch aboard his space company Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft on July 20.
The billionaire mogul will travel with his younger brother Mark, a charity auction winner who’s shelling out $28 million and pioneering female astronaut Wally Funk, 82.
However, Branson has now announced he’s planning to make a suborbital flight nine days before Bezos and his brother. He revealed on Twitter that he plans to be Astronaut 001 on Virgin Galactic’s July 11 test flight.
Although SpaceX and Tesla founder Musk has said he wants to go into space, and even ‘die on Mars’, he has not said when he might blast into orbit.
SpaceX appears to be leading the way in the broader billionaire space race with numerous launches carrying NASA equipment to the ISS and partnerships to send tourists to space by 2021.
On February 6 2018, SpaceX sent rocket towards the orbit of Mars, 140 million miles away, with Musk’s own red Tesla roadster attached.
Elon Musk with his Dragon Crew capsule
NASA has already selected two astronauts who will be on-board the first manned Dragon mission.
SpaceX has also started sending batches of 60 satellites into space to help form its Starlink network.
Musk hopes this will provide an interconnected web of satellites around Earth which will beam down free internet to people worldwide.
Branson and Virgin Galactic are taking a different approach to conquering space. It has repeatedly, and successfully, conducted test flights of the Virgin Galactic’s Unity space plane.
The first took place in December 2018 and the latest on May 22, with the flight accelerating to more than 2,000 miles per hour (Mach 2.7).
More than 600 affluent customers to date, including celebrities Brad Pitt and Katy Perry, have reserved a $250,000 (£200,000) seat on one of Virgin’s space trips.
Branson has previously said he expects Elon Musk to win the race to Mars with his private rocket firm SpaceX.
Richard Branson with the Virgin Galactic craft
SpaceShipTwo can carry six passengers and two pilots. Each passenger gets the same seating position with two large windows – one to the side and one overhead.
The space ship is 60ft long with a 90inch diameter cabin allowing maximum room for the astronauts to float in zero gravity.
It climbs to 50,000ft before the rocket engine ignites. SpaceShipTwo separates from its carrier craft, White Knight II, once it has passed the 50-mile mark.
Passengers become ‘astronauts’ when they reach the Karman line, the boundary of Earth’s atmosphere.
The spaceship will then make a suborbital journey with approximately six minutes of weightlessness, with the entire flight lasting approximately 1.5 hours.
Bezos revealed in April 2017 that he finances Blue Origin with around $1 billion (£720 million) of Amazon stock each year.
The system consists of a pressurised crew capsule atop a reusable ‘New Shepard’ booster rocket.
Bezos is one of the richest men in the world and Blue Origin has successfully flown the New Shepard rocket 15 times.
At its peak, the capsule reached 65 miles (104 kilometres), just above the official threshold for space and landed vertically seven minutes after liftoff.