An adventurer with money to burn has paid £20million for a seat on a spaceship alongside Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos.
The space tourist, whose identity will be revealed soon, secured their place on the first crewed spaceflight by Bezos’s Blue Origin rocket company in an auction on Saturday.
The four people flying to space, including Bezos, his brother Mark, the auction winner and one other not yet announced, will be in flight for 11 minutes and weightless for three minutes.
They will venture up to 62 miles above the Earth’s surface on the New Shepherd rocket, the point believed to be the boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and outer space, although NASA recognises 50 miles above the surface as the edge of space.
They will launch on July 20, the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
An adventurer with money to burn has paid £20million for a seat on a spaceship alongside Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos
Blue Origin, founded in 2000, touts itself as means to provide cheaper access to space through the use of reusable rockets- specifically the New Shepard that has flown 15 times already
BLUE ORIGIN: THE SPACE LAUNCH FIRM FOUNDED BY JEFF BEZOS
Amazon founder and outgoing CEO Jeff Bezos entered the space sector in 2000, two years before SpaceX was formed by Elon Musk.
Based in Kent, Washington, it originally focused on sub-orbital spaceflight services, building cheaper, more reliable and reusable launch vehicles.
They are gradually moving from suborbital to orbital flight in an incremental way and will launch humans to space on July 20.
Bezos will be on that first crewed flight along with his brother Mark, the winner of an auction, and three members of Blue Origin staff.
The firm currently has two launch vehicles, the suborbital New Shepherd, named for the first American in space, Alan Shepherd, and New Glenn, named for John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth.
Bezos has announced they are also working on New Armstrong, after the first man on the Moon, Neil Armstrong, although no details have been revealed.
Blue Origin haven’t said who will take the fourth seat on the crewed, but autonomous flight, but there is some suggestion it will be a Blue Origin employee.
The firm said after the auction – which attracted interested from 159 countries – that the successful bidder’s identity would be revealed soon.
All we know about them so far, apart from their deep pockets, is that they must be between 5ft and 6ft4ins tall, and weigh more than 7 stone 12lb, but less than 16 stone, to fit the size and specifications of the spacecraft.
Fitness-wise they will be capable of climbing seven storeys of stairs to the top of the launch tower, in Van Horn, Texas, within 90 seconds.
And they will require a strong bladder, as there are no facilities on board, where they are due to remain for at least 90 minutes.
The wealthy thrill-seeker should also have nerves of steel – as they will be flying at more than 2,000 mph to get into space, and such a trip is, needless to stay, inherently dangerous.
After its moments in orbit, the innovative vehicle is supposed to float back on parachutes and land upright.
New Shepard – named after first American in space Alan Shepard – flies by automation, is 59ft high, and has room for up to six passengers.
So far the only ones we know are Bezos and his brother Mark. A second space tourist is also expected to be there.
Bezos, who has built a fortune of some £130bn after spotting the potential for online shopping 30 years ago and starting Amazon as an internet bookseller, is stepping back from the top of the firm early next month.
His Blue Origin project has so far completed 15 flights, but all of them have been unmanned. He has been putting $1bn a year into it out of his spare change.
As a result of his planned personal trip Bezos is now the leader in the space race which has developed between himself and rival technology entrepreneur Elon Musk, the similarly fabulously rich boss of Tesla electric cars.
In an Instagram post, the billionaire said he had dreamed of travelling to space ever since he was five years old, adding: ‘I will take that journey with my brother. The greatest adventure, with my best friend.’
Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos inspects New Shepard’s West Texas launch facility. One seat on the flight, scheduled for July 20, is being auctioned
The space tourist, whose identity will be revealed soon, secured their place on the first crewed spaceflight by Bezos’s Blue Origin rocket company in an auction on Saturday
While Virgin Galactic founder Branson is expected to make a suborbital flight later this year, and SpaceX’s Musk has vowed to ‘die on Mars’, it is Bezos who will win the race to become the first of the trio to reach the edge of space.
Musk is yet to comment on the news, but Branson congratulated his rival, saying their two firms are ‘opening up access to space.’
He tweeted: ‘Many congratulations to @jeffbezos & his brother Mark on announcing spaceflight plans. Jeff started building Blue Origin in 2000, we started building Virgin Galactic in 2004 & now both are opening up access to Space – how extraordinary! Watch this space…’
‘On July 20th, I will take that journey with my brother. The greatest adventure, with my best friend,’ said Bezos
Branson has hinted his flight to space may be earlier, beating Bezos by up to two weeks, travelling on the next test flight, rather than the second flight.
There has been no love lost between Musk and Bezos, who have gone head-to-head on several projects for more than a decade.
Musk has branded his tech titan foe a ‘copycat’ over some of Amazon’s business ventures, while Bezos mocked the SpaceX CEO’s plan to send humans to Mars.
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 looks 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 former advertising executive and volunteer firefighter, and the winner of Saturday’s multi-million pound auction.
However, a report has suggested Branson might beat him to it, by making a suborbital flight two weeks before Bezos and his brother. The suggestion is the Virgin Galactic founder would travel on his VSS Unity SpaceShipTwo rocket plane on the July 4 weekend.
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.