“I loved every minute of it,” Wally Funk, an 82-year-old aviator, said in a ceremony after the flight. “I just wish it had been longer.”
Billionaire Jeff Bezos, who founded Blue Origin in 2000, invited Funk and his brother, Mark, to accompany him on the flight. Oliver Daemen, an 18-year-old high school graduate from the Netherlands, joined them. His father had purchased the final seat on the flight after an auction winner backed out.
Back on land, the passengers beamed and gave hugs all around. They popped champagne at their landing site. But some of the guests’ reviews of the flight came with caveats.
“We went right on up and I saw darkness,” Funk, now the oldest person to ever travel to space, said. “I thought I was going to see the world, but we weren’t quite high enough.”
Indeed, during the livestream Funk could be heard saying, “It’s dark up here.”
Once they unbuckled, the passengers could see Earth out the spaceship windows. But it wasn’t the blue marble one might witness from the moon, nor was it the same curving horizon that professional astronauts see from the International Space Station. (The station is about four times higher than the altitude Bezos and his companions reached on Tuesday.)
During the post-flight ceremony, Blue Origin shared the below video footage from inside the spaceship. In the background, you can clearly see clouds, the edge of Earth’s atmosphere, and the blackness of space beyond it.
The voyage, which took mere minutes, was the first human spaceflight for Blue Origin, the space exploration company Bezos founded in 2000. After the capsule touched down shortly after 9 a.m., Blue Origin employees rushed to ensure all passengers were safe and ground the spacecraft, which carried a static charge from its trip skyward. Then, they released the door, allowing Bezos, his brother, Mark, 18-year-old Oliver Daemen, and 82-year-old Wally Funk to disembark.
They were quickly swarmed by family members, friends, and Blue Origin employees – unsurprisingly, hugs and champagne showers ensued.
Here’s who we spotted among the crowd of well-wishers.
Jeff Bezos’ mother, Jackie, was the first to hug him after he exited the capsule.
Mike Bezos, the Bezos brothers’ father, squeezed in to hug Mark.
Preston Bezos, Bezos’ eldest son, was in attendance, along with his younger siblings.
Lauren Sanchez, Bezos’ girlfriend, sported a matching cowboy hat and was there to hug Bezos upon landing.
Former NFL tight end Tony Gonzalez got a peek inside the capsule. He was previously in a relationship with Sanchez, and the two have a 20-year-old son.
Joes Daemen, the chief executive of a private equity firm, embraced his son, Oliver. The elder Daemen paid for his son’s seat on New Shepard.
Three others joined the billionaire Amazon founder in his 11-minute rocket ride.
One of them was 18-year-old Olivier Daemen, Blue Origin’s first paying customer, won his spot on the flight after the initial winner – who paid $28 million for the ticket – canceled due to “scheduling conflicts.” Daemen’s father, who works at a hedge fund, paid millions at an auction to secure the ticket.
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.
Jeff Bezos, the richest person on Earth, is about to fly to the edge of space.
The billionaire founder of Amazon and Blue Origin is riding a New Shepard rocket up to the Kármán line – an imaginary boundary 62 miles (100 kilometers) above sea level, where many experts say space begins.
There, he’s expected to experience weightlessness and stunning views of Earth for about three minutes.
The rocket is scheduled to lift off from Blue Origin’s launch site in Texas at around 8 a.m. CT (9 a.m. ET) on Tuesday. The company is broadcasting the spaceflight live, in the video embedded below, starting at 6:30 a.m. CT (7:30 a.m. ET).
Bezos won’t be flying solo. His brother, Mark, is set to join him, along with an 18-year-old Dutch high school graduate named Oliver Daemen.
Wally Funk, an 82-year-old aviator, is also going. She trained to go to space in the 1960s but was ultimately denied the opportunity because she was a woman.
New Shepard has flown successfully 15 times, but never with people on board. This is its first passenger flight.
Blue Origin said there won’t be any “public viewing areas” in the vicinity of the launch site.
“I am so excited. I can’t wait to see what it’s going to be like,” Bezos told NBC’s “Today” on Monday.
“People who say they go into space, that they come back changed. Astronauts always talk about that – whether it’s the thin limit of the Earth’s atmosphere or seeing how fragile the planet is, that it’s just one planet. So I can’t wait to see what it’s going to do to me.”
How Jeff Bezos and his companions aim to fly to the edge of space
If all goes according to plan, the New Shepard rocket will fire its engines to heave itself off the launchpad.
As Bezos and his guests scream through the atmosphere, the force of the climb and the pull of Earth’s gravity – which should feel three times stronger than normal – are expected to pin them to their seats.
After three minutes, the rocket booster should fall away from the capsule that holds the passengers. That capsule should continue arcing above the Earth, and Bezos and his companions should feel weightless.
They’re expected to have three minutes to unbuckle, float around the cabin, and savor the views of the planet curving below.
Then, gravity should pull the spaceship into a high-speed plunge back to Earth. Three parachutes should balloon into the air to break the spaceship’s fall, carrying the capsule to a gentle landing in the Texas desert. A recovery crew should be waiting.
The entire flight should last 11 minutes.
Richard Branson launched to space first, but he didn’t pass the Kármán line
Richard Branson, the billionaire founder of Virgin Galactic, flew aboard his company’s space plane on Sunday.
Though Branson insisted there’s no competition between him and Bezos, Virgin Galactic changed its launch schedule in a way that sent its billionaire to the edge of space before Bezos.
Bezos founded Blue Origin in 2000 with the goal of democratizing human spaceflight. The company has grown slowly over the years, but in 2015, it completed a remarkable feat, one Bezos will soon attempt: Flying the New Shepard rocket 62 miles above Earth and landing it safely on the ground.
On Tuesday, Bezos will embark on his own 11-minute trip outside of the Earth’s gravitational pull, decades after he first became obsessed with space travel. Here’s where Bezos’ passion for space began.
Bezos’ interest in space stems from his maternal grandfather
The lore around Bezos’ childhood is well-known by this point: Every summer, he would travel to the South Texas ranch belonging to his grandfather, Lawrence Preston Gise.
According to Brad Stone’s book, “Amazon Unbound,” Gise had spent the 1950s and 1960s working on space technology and missile defense systems for the Atomic Energy Commission, a federal agency that was created in 1946 to manage the use of nuclear energy for both civilian and military applications.
Bezos, it seems, developed his passion for space during those summers with his grandfather. There, he would watch Apollo launches and read science fiction books from the library, according to Stone’s book.
Bezos used his high school valedictorian speech to talk about colonizing space
By the time he was in high school in South Florida, Bezos had told his friends that he wanted to be a space entrepreneur, and already had big plans to make space travel a part of his career plans, according to a 1999 Wired profile.
He attended a space initiative for high schoolers at NASA’s campus in Hunstville, Alabama, and later started a summer camp for elementary school students that had a heavy emphasis on science – including interstellar travel and space colonies, according to Wired.
When Bezos became valedictorian of his senior class in 1982, he delivered a speech about overpopulation and pollution. His solution to those existential threats, according to Stone’s book, was to send civilization to space.
″[Bezos] wants to build space hotels, amusement parks, yachts and colonies for two or three million people orbiting around the earth,” a write-up of Bezos’ speech by the Miami Herald said. Then, it said, he would turn around and preserve Earth as one massive, national park.
Bezos has long been obsessed with science fiction about space travel
Bezos’ love of science fiction – particularly “Star Trek” – is evident in many of his business pursuits. During the early days of Amazon, he considered naming the company “MakeItSo.com,” a reference to a line from “Star Trek” character Captain Jean-Luc Picard.
Bezos played the role of an alien in the 2016 film “Star Trek Beyond,” and at Blue Origin’s headquarters in Kent, Washington, there’s a model of the Starship Enterprise, the spaceship in the original “Star Trek” movies, according to Stone’s book.
To top it all off, Amazon’s arguably most popular product was inspired by “Star Trek” too. According to Stone’s book, beginning in the early 2010s, Bezos started talking about wanting to build a computer that worked like a personal assistant and could answer any question – that wish became Amazon’s Echo devices, which are powered by the Alexa smart assistant.
Bezos has traveled to the bottom of the ocean to retrieve pieces of Apollo 11
In 2013, Bezos, his brother, his brother-in-law, and his parents spent three weeks at sea recovering pieces of the engine of the Apollo 11 spacecraft, which took the first humans to the moon.
“We’ve seen an underwater wonderland – an incredible sculpture garden of twisted F-1 engines that tells the story of a fiery and violent end, one that serves testament to the Apollo program,” Bezos wrote of the experience.
After being sent to conservationists, the artifacts were installed at the Museum of Flight in Seattle.
Bezos stepped aside as Amazon CEO in favor of spending more time working on Blue Origin
When Bezos announced in February that he would step down as CEO of Amazon, he said he planned to spend more time on philanthropy, as well as his two other major endeavors: The Washington Post, which he purchased 2013, and Blue Origin.
But Bezos had hinted years earlier that space travel was rapidly becoming his focus.
Bezos added that he believes if he doesn’t pursue space travel, “we will eventually end up with a civilization of stasis,” which he said he finds “demoralizing.” It’s his generation’s role, he said, to lower the barrier of entry to space travel.
While it could be a risky trip for the world’s richest person and ex-CEO of Amazon, the date of the trip – July 20 – has pretty good mojo: It’s the anniversary of the first humans landing on the moon 52 years ago.
On July 16, 1969, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin blasted off from the Florida coast with the mission of landing on the moon and collecting samples of its surface. Four days later, on July 20, Armstrong and Aldrin set foot on the moon, planting the American flag and capturing iconic footage of their voyage.
Now, decades later, Bezos will fulfill a childhood ambition to visit space on the same date. Bezos’ interest in space stems from his maternal grandfather, Lawrence Preston Gise. According to Brad Stone’s book, “Amazon Unbound,” Gise spent the 1950s and 1960s working on space technology and missile defense systems for the Atomic Energy Commission, a federal agency that was created in 1946 to manage the use of nuclear energy for both civilian and military applications. A young Bezos used to travel to Gise’s South Texas ranch each summer where he would watch Apollo launches and read science fiction books from the library, according to Stone’s book.
As an adult, Bezos took his love of space to the next level: First, with the founding of Blue Origin in 2000, a rocket company focused on getting humans to the moon. Then, in 2013, Bezos, his brother, his brother-in-law, and his parents spent three weeks at sea recovering pieces of the engine of the Apollo 11 spacecraft.
“We’ve seen an underwater wonderland,” Bezos wrote of the experience, “an incredible sculpture garden of twisted F-1 engines that tells the story of a fiery and violent end, one that serves testament to the Apollo program.”
The Amazon billionaire, who founded Blue Origin over two decades ago, will embark on the rocket company’s first human spaceflight. Joined by his brother and two other passengers, Bezos will launch from a remote area of West Texas to just past the boundary separating Earth and space.
Funk is an 82-year-old aviator who, in 1961, joined an all-woman space mission dubbed “Mercury 13.” But the program was ultimately scrapped – seemingly for sexist reasons – and Funk never made it to space. Funk later embarked on a long career in flight and says she has taught over 3,000 people to fly.
Daemen is an 18-year-old from the Netherlands who will be Blue Origin’s first paying customer. After the anonymous bidder who paid $28 million for the seat in an auction last month had “scheduling conflicts,” Blue Origin offered the seat to Daemen, whose father paid for the spot, according to CNBC.
Daemen graduated from high school in 2020, took a gap year to obtain his pilot license, and will attend college for physics and innovation management this fall.
Daemen will be the youngest person ever to go to space, while Funk will be the oldest.
What will happen once the rocket lifts off?
Once New Shepard lifts off on Tuesday, it will hurtle upwards toward the Kármán line, which is about 62 miles above Earth and is considered the boundary of space.
The force of the trek skyward, combined with Earth’s gravitational pull, will pin the passengers to their seats – then, after about three minutes, the rocket will separate from the passenger-carrying capsule, the capsule will clear the Kármán line, and the passengers will feel weightless.
The crew will have about three minutes to float around the cabin and peer out the windows at Earth, or into the depths of space. Then, Bezos and company will buckle themselves back in for the plunge to the ground. Parachutes will open – likely causing the crew to feel an abrupt jerk – in order to help slow their descent into the Texas desert.
Is the trip risky?
As Insider reported, New Shepard has a good test-flight record, and at 11 minutes long, the trip will be a short one, lessening the risk: The rocket will be traveling slower because it’s not attempting to reach orbit, and it will be easier to control because its engines are smaller.
Bezos and his crew are flying without a pilot, since Blue Origin uses a fully automated launch system. It’s not necessarily riskier, so long as the passengers have undergone the proper training for how to handle emergencies.
The crew also might be skipping pressurized spacesuits and helmets, which could save their lives in the event of a cabin leak. But the suits also have downsides: Many first-time fliers throw up during a rocket’s launch or landing, and if they weren’t adequately trained to operate their suit, they could choke on their own vomit.
Either way, spaceflight is always a risky proposition: Roughly 1% of human spaceflights in the US have resulted in a fatal accident, according to an analysis by the Center for Space Policy and Strategy.
That’s “about 10,000 times more dangerous than flying on a commercial airliner,” George Nield, the co-author of the report and former Federal Aviation Administration associate administrator, recently told Insider.
What happens if the rocket fails?
The New Shepard rocket comes with an emergency escape system that will detach the capsule carrying the crew and parachute it safely back to Earth, Insider reports.
Blue Origin has tested the system three times in the past, including on a flight to space.
How do you watch the launch?
The broadcast of the event will begin at 6:30 a.m. CT/7:30 a.m. ET on Tuesday. Blue Origin says that it’s targeting 9 a.m. ET for liftoff.
Amazon and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos on Sunday shared a short video to Instagram introducing his followers to 18-year-old Oliver Daemen, who will join him on his voyage to the edge of space on Blue Origin’s New Shephard Tuesday.
Daemen was selected to join the space flight when the anonymous person who bid $28 million to take the flight pulled out due to “scheduling conflicts.” Daemen is Blue Origin’s first paying customer, having bid for the seat during the June auction.
“I think it’s the ultimate dream for so many people to go to space,” Daemen, who will become the youngest person to travel to space, said in the video.
He said his first memories of spaces were watching the TV show “Thunderbirds,” an apparent reference to a British sci-fi show from the 1960s.
“It’s so cool to go to with this group because Wally’s one of the best pilots ever and has such an amazing life story,” Daemen said in the video.
He also called Bezos “one of the best businessmen ever and a great visionary.”
“I feel a responsibility because I’m the youngest in space,” he said. “And to get more people interested in space, and not even just space – but science -will be such an opportunity for me to do.
“When I touch down and get out of the vehicle. I think I’ll be just speechless,” he added.
Bezos and his fellow soon-to-be astronauts have begun training for their suborbital flight on Blue Origin’s New Shepard, Blue Origin officials said at a press conference Sunday. Officials said the New Shephard rocket showed “no issues” and is ready for the July 20 launch.
Billionaire Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and his fellow astronauts have started the training process ahead of their flight to the edge of space on Tuesday, Blue Origin officials announced at a press conference Sunday, two days ahead of the launch.
The process for Bezos, who founded Blue Origin in 2000, and the other astronauts involves two full days of “very concise training,” said Ariane Cornell, the director of astronaut and orbital sales at Blue Origin.
Bezos and his fellow soon-to-be space travelers all met each other in West Texas within the past 48 hours, Cornell said. They are currently staying at an astronaut village not far from the launch site, she added.
The anonymous person whose $28 million bid won a seat on what will be Blue Origin’s first manned flight had “scheduling conflicts” and will not be on the New Shepherd flight when it launches this week.
The New Shepard will travel to the imaginary boundary 62 miles (100 kilometers) above sea level known as the Kármán line, where experts say space begins, as Insider’s Morgan McFall-Johnsen previously reported. Passengers are expected to experience weightlessness and views of the Earth below them for about three minutes.
The ship rocket had undergone necessary safety checks and has “no issues,” Blue Origin officials said. New Shepard has flown successfully 15 times since 2015, but never with people onboard.
Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith said Sunday the company hopes to reuse the New Shepherd rocket for a flight carrying paying passengers either in late September or early October.
The spacecraft is fully autonomous and has an escape system that is designed to jettison passengers away from the ship in case of emergency.
“We are not currently working on any open issues, and New Shepard is ready to fly,” said Steve Lanius, the flight director for the Tuesday voyage.
While rain and thunderstorms are predicted for the West Texas area where the rocket will launch, officials at the press conference Sunday said they expected the weather to be clear for the scheduled liftoff at 8 a.m. local time. They said they’d launch weather balloons Monday and again on Tuesday to ensure that conditions were ideal.
There will be no spectators permitted near the launch site Tuesday morning because the facility lacked the infrastructure to handle them, Cornell said. Instead, the best way to watch is through Blue Origin’s live stream of the launch, she said.