It’s not clear if the company sold any private tickets before it officially opened sales on Tuesday. Insider contacted Blue Origin for comment, but did not immediately receive a response.
“The demand is very, very high,” Bezos said. “So we’re going to keep after that, because we really do want to practice with this vehicle.
“We’re going to have to build more boosters to fly more frequently, and we’re going to be doing that and working on the operational things we need to do,” Bezos told reporters.
Bezos and Blue Origin didn’t disclose seat prices for the journey, which travels 62 miles above the Earth’s surface.
A seat next to Bezos on New Shepard went for $28 million in the company’s auction in June. The winner pulled out due to “scheduling conflicts,” and Oliver Daeman, an 18-year-old from the Netherlands who also placed a bid, took the seat instead. He was Blue Origin’s first paying customer.
After Amazon and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos flew into suborbital space for around three minutes on Tuesday, he thanked some of the people who helped send him there: Amazon’s employees and customers.
“I want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer, because you guys paid for all of this,” Bezos said during a post-flight press conference. “Seriously, for every Amazon customer out there, and every Amazon employee, thank you from the bottom of my heart very much. It’s very appreciated.”
For many workers who heard Bezos’ comments, the feeling wasn’t exactly mutual.
Multiple Amazon employees told Insider there appeared to be little interest in the launch, and that they wished Bezos would have spent the money on virtually anything else, like paying Amazon workers better.
“I heard he was going to space but to be honest, I didn’t really care,” an employee at Amazon’s JFK8 warehouse in Staten Island, told Insider, adding: “Me and my coworkers were joking that he should just go to Jupiter and live his best life there.”
“People certainly weren’t rushing to the TVs to watch,” one Amazon warehouse employee in Indiana told Insider. “I guess it was just a big deal for Jeff. We didn’t get anything out of it. Twenty-minute flight to space on us basically since we do the work.”
Amazon and Blue Origin did not immediately respond to requests for comment on this story.
Most of Bezos’ wealth is tied up in roughly 51.7 million shares of Amazon stock he owns, shares that have risen to more than $3,549 apiece since the company’s IPO price of $18 in 1997. And Bezos previously said he liquidates around $1 billion worth of Amazon stock per year to fund Blue Origin’s operations, so those who have helped Amazon succeed literally did fund Bezos’ space ambitions.
But some workers said they’ve paid for the success of Amazon, and by extension Blue Origin, in other ways that they’re not too happy about.
“I guess he’s thanking us for putting the money in his pocket to do so by our hard work, sacrificing our bonuses and stock options to make it possible,” the Amazon employee in Indiana said. (Amazon’s hourly warehouse employees aren’t eligible for stock options or bonuses).
“I feel like he just said that because he had a guilty conscience, he knows he’s wrong for making money off treating workers like slaves,” the Staten Island employee said, referencing the grueling and potentially dangerous conditions some Amazon workers encounter.
Amazon’s reliance on a massive network of contract delivery drivers allows it to avoid paying for their healthcare, workers’ compensation, and unemployment insurance, and 4,000 of its workers in just nine states rely on food stamps, passing those costs off to taxpayers and other employers whose payments into the social safety net help Amazon workers that have fallen through the cracks.
Amazon workers who spoke to Insider also said they felt Bezos should have spent more of his immense wealth addressing these and other issues instead of pursuing his space ambitions.
“I can think of a lot of other things he could do with all that money he spent on it, better wages for starters, the homeless, the poor, mental health,” another current Amazon fulfilment center employee told Insider.
“I think it’s selfish of him to be so self-consumed to send himself into space when there are so many homeless and hungry people in the world. He could end homelessness and hunger for everybody in the world and he chooses not to because he’s selfish,” said Vickie Shannon Allen, a former Amazon employee who became homeless after a workplace injury and a long battle with Amazon over medical expenses.
Early in the morning, before dawn, I pulled into the small West Texas town of Van Horn where the townspeople were about to be awoken by a boom. Two booms, actually.
In 2004, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos purchased a 165,000-ace ranch north of Van Horn and turned it into the launch site for Blue Origin, his pet aerospace company designed to take the first commercial passengers into orbit.
Today Blue Origin launched its first customers into space on their New Shepard rocket, the crown jewel of the company’s space flight arsenal.
In a show of confidence in his product, Bezos volunteered to join its maiden voyage. He brought along three passengers: Mark Bezos, Jeff’s younger brother, Oliver Daemen, a Dutch 18-year-old son of a hedge fund millionaire, and famed female aviator Wally Funk, who would become the oldest person to fly into space.
I drove overnight from Dallas to watch it live this morning, 16 miles north in Van Horn in a restricted area sectioned off by the Texas Department of Transportation for the launch – the closest spectators could be to the rocket. I came because I wanted to witness cutting-edge science and see how it inspires future generations to become interested in accomplishing incredible things.
At about 6:30 a.m. local time, I began staking out my place among the assembled media and general public, dodging the reporters touching-up their makeup before their live spots.
I set my camera up around 10 miles from the launch pad and took a quick test shot to ensure I could see the rocket. It was hazy, but I saw the New Shepard in the distance, 90 minutes from lift-off.
Satisfied with my composition, I wandered the crowd meeting people from all walks of life who shared one thing in common that morning: a love of space.
James Newton and his three sons drove seven hours throughout the night from a town just north of Austin, Texas arriving on site by 4 a.m. They were inspired by Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic flight to space just nine days before and decided to make the long trip out west.
I spoke to a husband and wife who made the long drive from Houston. It was their first rocket launch. The wife had loyally drawn a Blue Origin sign that she affixed to the side of their SUV. She posed with another sign inscribed with her sentiments for Richard Branson, who beat Bezos into space by nine days.
As the minutes ticked down, the excitement built. I took one last look back at the small village that suddenly appeared around the official road closure. Nine minutes until lift-off.
I pulled up the Blue Origin livestream on my phone – “three minutes till launch!” – I yelled out. Everyone excitedly took their positions, binoculars, cameras, and telescopes at the ready.
A rocket takes off differently from what you would expect. You see it before you hear it.
A bright plume appeared under the booster with exhaust escaping to the side. Gradually, it began to escape Earth’s gravity.
Gracefully it continued its ascent. And that’s when the first sounds started to ripple. It wasn’t a roar as much as it was waves of sound that you could feel as much as you could hear.
Cheers erupted from those around me. I faithfully tracked the rocket as it continued into the grey sky.
On the other side of the clouds, the ship escaped Earth’s atmosphere, eclipsing the Kármán line, the international boundary for space, leaving abstract plumes of exhaust in its wake.
I pulled up the livestream and heard the glee-filled laughs from inside the crew capsule. Bezos and his fellow passengers floated weightlessly as they reached the edges of the earth.
Back on earth, everyone was as intensely focused as I was.
The New Shepard is a reusable rocket, which means the main booster separates from the crew capsule and returns to the landing pad.
We could not see the booster descending, but all of a sudden we heard a sonic boom as the rocket broke the speed of sound, and another – boom! – as it approached the ground.
This was, of course, followed by appropriate cheers – “whoa” and “awesome” – from the crowd.
The crew capsule soon followed, descending playfully under blue parachutes.
As the capsule landed, the parachutes lost their form. I asked some of my newfound space friends what they thought of the launch. Some enjoyed the sounds, others the spectacle of watching something so deceivingly small rocket into space. My favorite response was from one of the kids: “I can’t wait to learn more about space now!”
This is what it’s all about. Many will focus on the billionaire race to space, but there are so many reasons to celebrate Blue Origin today. Wally Funk, who began training for space flight in the 1970s, finally flew into space, long overdue. Humans left the planet and returned safely, and in reusable fashion.
Most importantly, the next generation of space enthusiasts began their journey today. What began with, “whoa” and “awesome,” will one day lead to the world’s next great innovations – all from a little patch of dirt near Van Horn, Texas.
Andy Luten is a travel blogger, professional photographer, and full-time account manager at a major data firm.
The Amazon and Blue Origin founder flew on the space exploration company’s first human spaceflight on Tuesday, blasting off shortly after 9 a.m. ET.
The crew, which included Bezos’ brother, Mark, 82-year-old pilot Wally Funk, and Dutch teen Oliver Daemen, flew just above the border between Earth and space and experienced weightlessness for about three minutes before safely touching back down in the West Texas desert.
As the capsule floated back toward Earth with an assist from three parachutes, Bezos informed Blue Origin mission control that everyone was safe and sound – and elated.
“You have a very happy crew up here,” Bezos said, adding a few minutes later: “Best day ever. That was incredible.”
When asked how he was doing, Mark Bezos responded: “I am unbelievably good.”
Upon landing, the crew disembarked and was greeted by a swarm of family and friends, including the Bezos brothers’ parents, Jackie and Mike; Jeff Bezos’ girlfriend, Lauren Sanchez; his son, Preston; and Blue Origin employees. After many excited hugs and high fives, the crew celebrated with – what else – champagne showers.