The date of Jeff Bezos’ trip to space isn’t a coincidence – it’s the anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon

Jeff Bezos and the Apollo 11 moon landing
  • Jeff Bezos will travel to the edge of space aboard a Blue Origin rocket on July 20.
  • The date has good mojo in space history: It’s the anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon.
  • Bezos is obsessed with Apollo 11 – he retrieved pieces of its engine from the ocean in 2013.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Jeff Bezos’ trip aboard a Blue Origin rocket on Tuesday will take place on a fortuitous day in space history.

The 11-minute trip 62 miles above Earth will take Bezos to the edge of space. Inside Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft, Bezos, his brother Mark, 82-year-old aviator Wally Funk, and Dutch teen Oliver Daemen will have three minutes to float around the spacecraft and view Earth from afar – or gaze into the depths of outer space.

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.

Read more: Space vacations will soon be an option for people with 6 figures to burn. These are 4 companies leading the industry.

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.”

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Jeff Bezos and his fellow Blue Origin astronauts have started training for Tuesday’s space flight. ‘New Shepard is ready to fly,’ the company said.

A composite of jeff bezos and the new shepard rocket taking off.
Jeff Bezos (left) is set to launch aboard the New Shepard rocket (right) on July 20.

  • Jeff Bezos and his fellow soon-to-be astronauts have begun training for their suborbital flight on Blue Origin’s New Shepard.
  • Bezos will fly to the edge of space with his brother, Mark, 82-year-old Wally Funk, and 18-year-old Oliver Daeman.
  • The rocket has undergone necessary safety checks and is ready to go, Blue Origin officials said Sunday.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

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.

Instead, Bezos will travel to space with the ship’s crew, his brother, Mark Bezos, 84-year-old aviator Wally Funk, and 18-year-old Oliver Daemen, who replaced the top bidder. The New Shepard flight will make history, bringing aboard the youngest and oldest-ever US astronauts.

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 flight will come less than two weeks after another billionaire founder of a space company, Richard Branson, flew to the edge of space with three crewmates. The Virgin Galactic space plane reached 55 miles above Earth then landed safely.

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.

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Virgin Galactic drops 17% as announcement of $500 million share sale outweighs successful space flight

richard branson with spaceshiptwo space plane
Richard Branson poses with the new SpaceShipTwo, a six-passenger two-pilot vehicle meant to ferry people into space, in Mojave, California,February 19, 2016.

  • Virgin Galactic dropped more than 17% on Monday after announcing a $500 million share sale.
  • The company successfully completed a space flight with founder Richard Branson over the weekend.
  • Branson thereby beat rival entrepreneurs Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk to be the first billionaire to reach space.
  • Sign up here for our daily newsletter, 10 Things Before the Opening Bell.

Shares of Virgin Galactic sank by more than 17% on Monday as the company announced a large share sale after completing a successful space test flight with founder Richard Branson on board over the weekend.

A filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission showed the space company was conducting a $500 million share offering. The shares finished the session with a loss of 17.7% at $40.51.

The news comes on the heels of a major development on Sunday, when Virgin Galactic flew a full crew – including founder Richard Branson – to the edge of outer space in its VSS Unity spacecraft, which reached 55 miles above sea level.

Last week, UBS analyst Myles Walton downgraded Virgin Galactic to “neutral” as he believed the majority of optimism around achieving space travel was already considered in the current stock price and it could therefore not skyrocket further. The company has soared almost 200% since mid-May.

With the successful space flight, Branson beat fellow space company founder Jeff Bezos into space by just over a week – the Blue Origin founder is due to fly on July 20 on the New Shepard rocket. Blue Origin’s CEO Bob Smith had played this down earlier in the month, saying that Bezos’ flight would go higher than Branson’s and break through the Kármán line – a heavily contested, imaginary boundary used by some space experts to determine the end of Earth’s atmosphere and beginning of outer space.

Virgin Galactic secured approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly customers into space last month, becoming the first company to do so. Over 600 customers are waiting for a spaceflight, including billionaire and CEO of space technology company SpaceX, Elon Musk. Tickets for space flights with Virgin Galactic cost $250,000.

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Virgin Galactic drops as much as 15% after the company announced a $500 million share sale

richard branson with spaceshiptwo space plane
Richard Branson poses with the new SpaceShipTwo, a six-passenger two-pilot vehicle meant to ferry people into space, in Mojave, California,February 19, 2016.

  • Virgin Galactic dropped by as much as 15% on Monday after announcing a $500 million share sale.
  • The company successfully completed a space flight with founder Richard Branson over the weekend.
  • Branson thereby beat rival entrepreneurs Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk to be the first billionaire to reach space.
  • Sign up here for our daily newsletter, 10 Things Before the Opening Bell.

Shares of Virgin Galactic dropped by as much as 15% on Monday as the company announced a large share sale after completing a successful space test flight with founder Richard Branson on board over the weekend.

A filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission showed the space company was conducting a $500 million share sale. Virgin Galatic shares were last at $41.98, down 14.67% at 12:26 pm E.T.. They hit an intraday low of $41.70 at one point.

On Sunday, Virgin Galactic flew a full crew, including founder Richard Branson, to the edge of outer space in its VSS Unity spacecraft, which reached 55 miles above sea level.

Last week, UBS analyst Myles Walton downgraded Virgin Galactic to “neutral” as he believed the majority of optimism around achieving space travel was already considered in the current stock price and it could therefore not skyrocket further. The company has soared almost 200% since mid-May.

With the successful space flight, Branson beat fellow space company founder Jeff Bezos into space by just over a week – the Blue Origin founder is due to fly on July 20 on the New Shepard rocket. Blue Origin’s CEO Bob Smith had played this down earlier in the month, saying that Bezos’ flight would go higher than Branson’s and break through the Kármán line – a heavily contested, imaginary boundary used by some space experts to determine the end of Earth’s atmosphere and beginning of outer space.

Virgin Galactic secured approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly customers into space last month, becoming the first company to do so. Over 600 customers are waiting for a spaceflight, including billionaire and CEO of space technology company SpaceX, Elon Musk. Tickets for space flights with Virgin Galactic cost $250,000.

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Virgin Galactic rises as much as 9% in premarket trading after Richard Branson’s successful space flight

richard branson with spaceshiptwo space plane
Richard Branson poses with the new SpaceShipTwo, a six-passenger two-pilot vehicle meant to ferry people into space, in Mojave, California,February 19, 2016.

Shares of Virgin Galactic rose by as much as 9% in pre-market trading on Monday after the space company completed a successful space test flight with founder Richard Branson on board over the weekend.

This was the first time Virgin Galactic flew a full crew to the edge of outer space in its VSS Unity spacecraft, which reached 55 miles above sea level.

In pre-market trading on Monday, shares of Virgin Galactic were last at $53.08, up 7.89% at 7:13 am E.T., after having closed 6.62% lower at $49.20 after Friday’s regular session.

Last week, UBS analyst Myles Walton downgraded Virgin Galactic to “neutral” as he believed the majority of optimism around achieving space travel was already considered in the current stock price and it could therefore not skyrocket further. The company has soared almost 200% since mid-May.

With the successful space flight, Branson beat fellow space company founder Jeff Bezos into space by just over a week – the Blue Origin founder is due to fly on July 20 on the New Shepard rocket. Blue Origin’s CEO Bob Smith had played this down earlier in the month, saying that Bezos’ flight would go higher than Branson’s and break through the Kármán line – a heavily contested, imaginary boundary used by some space experts to determine the end of Earth’s atmosphere and beginning of outer space.

Virgin Galactic secured approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly customers into space last month, becoming the first company to do so. Over 600 customers are waiting for a spaceflight, including billionaire and CEO of space technology company SpaceX, Elon Musk. Tickets for space flights with Virgin Galactic cost $250,000.

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Richard Branson and 3 crewmates flipped in zero-gravity and walked on the ceiling when Virgin Galactic’s plane reached the edge of space – take a look

Richard Branson and his crewmates flying in zero gravity in Virgin Galactic's spacecraft
Richard Branson floated in zero gravity in Virgin Galactic’s spacecraft.

  • Richard Branson became the first billionaire to reach the edge of space on Sunday.
  • Virgin Galactic’s space plane launched with Branson, three crew members, and two pilots.
  • They spent five minutes floating in zero gravity before the space plane descended back to Earth.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Virgin Galactic blasted six people to the edge of space on Sunday.

The four crew members, including Richard Branson, being photographed after their trip to the edge of space
Virgin Galactic’s four crew members, including founder Richard Branson (far right), after their journey to the edge of space.

Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic, and five other people flew to the edge of space on Sunday morning, taking the company one step closer to launching tourists into space in 2022.

Branson was the mission specialist on the flight, which also took Beth Moses, chief astronaut instructor, Colin Bennett, lead operations engineer, and Sirisha Bandla, vice president of government affairs and research, to the edge of space.

All four were standing in as passengers to test the spaceflight.

Two pilots, Dave Mackay and Mike Masucci, flew the space plane, called VVS Unity.

 

Richard Branson made a speech before he took off his seatbelt.

Richard Branson sat in Virgin Galactic's spaceship when it reached the edge of space
Richard Branson made a speech when VVS Unity reached the edge of space

“To all you kids down there, I was once a child with a dream, looking up to the stars,” Branson said in a speech when VVS Unity reached zero gravity.

“Now, I’m an adult in a spaceship with lots of other wonderful adults, looking down to our beautiful, beautiful Earth,” he said.

“To the next generation of dreamers, if we can do this, just imagine what you can do,” he added. Branson then unfastened his seatbelt to join the other crew members floating around the spacecraft.

Branson and the crew unstrapped themselves from their seats when the space plane reached 55 miles above sea level.

Richard Branson and his crewmates flying in zero gravity in Virgin Galactic's spacecraft
Richard Branson floated in zero gravity in Virgin Galactic’s spacecraft.

Virgin Galactic‘s VSS Unity shut off its engines when it reached the edge of space, and drifted above the Earth.

At this point, the crew members experienced zero gravity. As soon as they unfastened their seatbelts, they began floating around the space plane. 

 

The crew members flipped upside down, walked on the ceiling, and did forward rolls in the spacecraft.

Richard Branson and his crewmates flying in zero gravity in Virgin Galactic's spacecraft
Richard Branson and his crewmates flying in zero gravity in Virgin Galactic’s spacecraft

Branson and the crew spent about five minutes floating around VVS Unity. They walked upside down and spun around with each other in zero gravity.

The space plane has 17 windows for the crew members to look out of and see the Earth below.

Richard Branson and other Virgin Galactic crew members float around in zero gravity in space plane
Richard Branson and other Virgin Galactic crew members float around in zero gravity

The crew members could see the curvature of the Earth below them as they floated around the spacecraft.

 

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As Richard Branson prepares to beat Jeff Bezos to space, Blue Origin claims the flight won’t go high enough to count

Richard Branson stands with his arms out to the side in front of a white space plane with a design of a woman holding a banner that says "Virgin."
Richard Branson poses with Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, a six-passenger, two-pilot vehicle meant to ferry people into space, in Mojave, California, February 19, 2016.

If Virgin Galactic’s flight on Sunday goes as planned, its founder, Richard Branson, will become the first person to launch to the edge of space on his own company’s commercial vehicle. Blue Origin’s founder, Jeff Bezos, plans to do the same thing a mere nine days later.

Branson, for his part, has tried to downplay the competitive element of this billionaire space race – even though he announced his plan just weeks after Bezos shared his. Branson was originally scheduled to go on the Virgin Galactic flight after this one.

“It’s just an incredible, wonderful coincidence that we’re going up in the same month,” he told The Washington Post.

Blue Origin, meanwhile, has been anything but subtle in attempting to assert its superiority. The company maintains that Virgin Galactic can’t reach space at all.

“We wish him a great and safe flight, but they’re not flying above the Kármán line and it’s a very different experience,” Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith told The New York Times last week, referring to Branson.

The Kármán line is a hypothetical boundary between Earth and space, about 62 miles (100 kilometers) above sea level. That’s where New Shepard, Blue Origin’s rocket, is set to carry Bezos on July 20. Virgin Galactic, by contrast, will carry Branson and his crewmates to an altitude of 55 miles.

A Friday tweet and graphic from Blue Origin went after Virgin Galactic even more directly.

“From the beginning, New Shepard was designed to fly above the Kármán line so none of our astronauts have an asterisk next to their name. For 96% of the world’s population, space begins 100 km up at the internationally recognized Kármán line,” it said.

Where is the boundary between Earth and space?

Experts don’t agree on where outer space begins. The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), a non-profit that certifies aeronautical and astronautical world records, uses the Kármán line to define the border of space. The name comes from 19th-century Hungarian-American engineer Theodore von Kármán.

However, NASA, the US Air Force, and the Federal Aviation Administration have awarded astronaut wings to pilots who flew past 50 miles. The FAI has also proposed a workshop to explore the idea of lowering the boundary from 62 miles to 50 miles.

A view of Earth's surface and curvature from space aboard Virgin Galactic's vehicle.
The view from space on Virgin Galactic’s first spaceflight, December 13, 2018.

In Blue Origin’s Friday tweet, the company suggested that right now, “only 4% of the world recognizes a lower limit of 80 km or 50 miles as the beginning of space” – implying that every country except the US relies on the Kármán line.

“New Shepard flies above both boundaries. One of the many benefits of flying with Blue Origin,” the company said.

Neither Virgin Galactic nor Blue Origin, however, have a vehicle that reaches low-Earth orbit.

Determining a boundary between Earth and space matters for more than billionaires’ egos or corporate profits. It’s important for legal reasons: The FAA regulates both aircraft and spacecraft in the US, but different sets of laws and treaties apply to airplanes in air space and rockets in outer space.

A rocket versus a space plane

A white-and-silver plane with "Virgin" on the side touching down on a runway, with desert and mountains in the background.
The VSS Unity touches down in the Mojave Desert on December 3, 2016.

Blue Origin’s spicy graphic highlighted other differences between its New Shepard and Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo. Notably, that the former involves a rocket, while the latter does not.

SpaceShipTwo, a high-altitude plane called VSS Unity, does not blast off from a launchpad. Instead, it gets carried aboard a double-fuselage mothership, which climbs to about 50,000 feet, or nearly 10 miles. The ship then releases the space plane, after which Virgin Galactic pilots must fire the plane’s engines, point the VSS Unity almost straight upward, and accelerate to more than three times the speed of sound.

Once the space plane gets about 55 miles above sea level, the pilots cut the engines and allow the vehicle to drift. That way, passengers can feel weightless for about five minutes. Through the space plane’s 17 windows, they should be able to see the Earth curving below them.

“I can’t wait,” Branson told NBC’s Today. “At that moment, we will have become astronauts. I will pinch myself and pinch myself again and again.”

The two vehicles land differently, too. For its return, the VSS Unity should rotate its wings and booms back into place to catch the wind and glide to a runway landing. Blue Origin’s space capsule, meanwhile, is designed to fall back toward Earth, with three parachutes ballooning into the air to slow it.

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Meet Mark Bezos, the younger brother of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos who’s about to join him aboard Blue Origin’s first human space flight

Jeff Bezos Mark Bezos
Mark Bezos, left, and Jeff Bezos.

  • Jeff Bezos announced that his brother, Mark, will join him on a Blue Origin flight to space.
  • Mark, who is six years Jeff’s junior, is a volunteer fireman who has his own private equity firm.
  • He and Jeff are the “closest friends.” Jeff he described him as the “funniest guy in my life.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

On July 20, Jeff Bezos and his younger brother, Mark, are heading to space.

The Amazon founder announced Monday that he and his brother will be on the first human flight of the New Shepard spacecraft, which is made by Blue Origin, Bezos’ space exploration company. The company is currently auctioning one of the six available seats aboard the flight, which will last 11 minutes and take the spacecraft 62 miles above the Earth’s surface.

Bezos said in a video posted to Instagram that he’s wanted to go to space his whole life, and that he asked his brother to come along “because we’re closest friends.”

So who is the younger Bezos? Here are five things we know about him.

Mark Bezos is the youngest of the Bezos siblings

According to a 1999 Wired profile on Jeff Bezos, Mark Bezos is six years younger than his brother, who turned 57 in January. The brothers have a middle sister named Christina.

The Bezos siblings moved around a lot as kids, spending time in Albuquerque, Houston, and Pensacola, Florida. Their mother, Jackie, had Jeff as a teenager; their father, Mike, immigrated to the US from Cuba at age 15. The couple met while working at a local bank, and Mike Bezos became Jeff Bezos’ adoptive father.

He got his start in advertising and marketing

Mark Bezos attended Texas Christian University, graduating in 1992 with a degree in advertising and public relations, according to his LinkedIn page.

He got his start working at New York City ad firms like DDB and Saatchi & Saatchi. Then, in 1999, he founded and ran his own marketing company. The same year, he became a director at the Bezos Family Foundation, which was founded by Jackie and Mike Bezos.

In 2006, he began working at an organization called Robin Hood, not to be confused with the stock-trading app – Robin Hood is a New York-based nonprofit focused on fighting poverty. Bezos currently serves on Robin Hood’s leadership council.

Bezos is also the cofounder of private equity firm HighPost Capital.

He’s a volunteer firefighter

Bezos has been a volunteer with the Scarsdale Fire Department in Westchester County since 2005.

In 2011, Bezos gave a TED talk about being a firefighter, sharing a humorous story about being asked to do the unglamorous job of retrieving shoes for a woman whose house was on fire. But after hearing the woman’s appreciation, he said, he saw the importance of committing small acts of kindness and generosity.

“I would offer this reminder: Don’t wait,” Bezos said. “Don’t wait until you make your first million to make a difference in somebody’s life.”

He’s likely a millionaire several times over

Jeff Bezos’ parents invested invested $245,573 in Amazon in 1995, and while they haven’t publicly disclosed their Amazon holdings since 1999, they likely own millions of shares worth tens of billions of dollars, according to Bloomberg.

Mark and Christina also own shares in Amazon and are most likely worth several hundred million dollars apiece.

Last month, Mark put his Scarsdale home on the market for $11 million. The four-acre estate includes a main house with six bedrooms and four bathrooms, as well as a four-bedroom guest house. The property also includes a home theater, gym, wine cellar, and game room with a golf simulator.

Mark and his brother are close friends

In a Seattle Times profile on Jeff Bezos from 1999, Mark described what it feels like when your brother starts becoming famous.

“When your brother is all of a sudden one of these people who are being recognized, you look at him and try to imagine you’re seeing him for the first time,” said Mark Bezos. “(He’s) Jeff Bezos, the guy who started Amazon, as opposed to Jeff Bezos, the guy who used to make you tickle his feet.”

Mark interviewed Jeff onstage at a Summit leadership event in 2017 and joked about his brother’s astronomical wealth.

“If any of you do get confused, I’m the one with the smaller bank account to your left,” Mark said.

For his part, Jeff has described his brother as the “funniest guy in my life” and said that when they’re together – often drinking bourbon – “I just laugh continuously.”

The two brothers also support each other. According to the Seattle Times story, Jeff showed up at Mark’s first marathon in New York and started jogging with him at mile 25 to offer moral support, ducking out right before the finish line.

In the video about the upcoming spaceflight, Mark said he was “awestruck” that Jeff asked him to come.

“What a remarkable opportunity, not only to have this adventure, but to be able to do it with my best friend,” Mark said.

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Elon Musk trolls Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin after it challenges SpaceX’s NASA lunar lander contract

bezomusk
Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos.

  • Elon Musk trolled Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin on Twitter amid a battle over a $2.9 billion NASA contract.
  • Blue Origin reportedly protested NASA’s choice to award an exclusive lunar lander contract to SpaceX.
  • Musk and Bezos have feuded for more than 15 years over their space ambitions.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk took another jab at rival billionaire Jeff Bezos’ space startup, Blue Origin, on Monday amid a battle over a $2.9 billion contract to build a lunar lander for NASA.

The New York Times reported Monday Blue Origin had filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office to challenge NASA’s decision to award the exclusive contract to SpaceX.

Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith told The Times NASA had erred in its assessment of the proposals submitted by his company, SpaceX, and a third bidder, Dynetics.

On Twitter, Musk responded to the report about Blue Origin’s challenge by making a thinly veiled joke about the male anatomy, saying: “Can’t get it up (to orbit) lol.”

The joke alluded to the fact that Blue Origin has not yet achieved a successful orbital spaceflight with its rockets.

Blue Origin did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

Blue Origin earlier this year launched its suborbital New Shepherd rocket system with a crash-test dummy dubbed “Mannequin Skywalker,” but has lagged overall in its space race compared to Musk’s SpaceX.

The feud between Musk and Bezos began more than 15 years ago when a conversation about reusable rockets reportedly went south. Since then, the two execs have sparred frequently over their rival plans for colonizing space and occasionally their other businesses, Tesla and Amazon.

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A Spanish startup is offering trips to space in helium balloons as a cheaper alternative to SpaceX

Zero 2 Infinity
Setting off from Andalucia in the south of the country, the space trip will take six hours.

  • Spanish startup Zero 2 Infinity will soon be launching operational helium balloon space flights.
  • Tourists will be taken 40 kilometers above Earth, allowing them to enjoy the “overview effect.”
  • As well as being lower cost, it’s a lower risk operation than more ambitious missions like SpaceX.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Founded in 2009 by Jose Mariano Lopez-Urdiales, Spanish startup Zero 2 Infinity wants to launch passengers 40 kilometers into space using helium balloons.

Setting off from Andalucia in the south of Spain, the trip will take six hours.

The ascent will take three hours, while two hours will be spent floating in space, and a further hour will be spent on the descent.

Lopez-Urdiales was first struck by the idea while helping his astrophysicist father to float helium balloons to the threshold of space, he told Sifted.

The aim of the 40km flight is to allow passengers to experience the “overview effect,” allowing them to experience the blackness of space, the roundness of the earth, and its blue color – all without actually entering space itself, which is at around double the distance from Earth at 80 kilometers.

For the landing, the capsule containing the passengers detaches from the helium balloon and lands with a very large parachute, Lopez-Urdiales told El Economista.

He also highlighted that the space flight didn’t produce any noise or CO2 emissions, nor did it bring with it any risk of explosion.

The company previously carried out a test in 2012 sending a humanoid robot up to an altitude of 32 kilometers.

At the time they said they wanted to eventually offer hours of flight time so people could experience longer periods in space.

They conducted a further test in 2017 launching a prototype consisting of a balloon and a rocket to a height of 40 kilometers, Phys.Org reported.

SpaceX NASA
Through SpaceX, Elon Musk wants to get humans to Mars by 2026.

Zero 2 Infinity the only Spanish startup in the space tourism market. EOS-X Space, founded by Kemel Kharbachi, is exploring a very similar concept and plans to launch its first commercial flight in 2023.

Lopez-Urdiales accused Kharbachi of copying the company’s concept after he worked with them on a funding deal that fell through. However, Kharbachi has denied the accusations.

Other space tourism concepts entail entering space itself at a high altitude. One landmark moment was when Space Adventures launched businessman Dennis Tito up to the International Space Station for eight days.

The Richard Branson-headed Virgin Galactic also aims to launch flights into space. In 2019, it became the first space tourism company to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX wants to go even further, getting humans to Mars by 2026 and eventually building colonies on the red planet.

Zero 2 Infinity’s concept comes at a much lower price than the other options, at just over $130,000. However, Lopez-Urdiales says the transport still has to be tested out by professionals, who are scheduled to do so later this year.

The company also still needs to secure another $2.4 million in funding, despite having already raised around $7.2 million.

“We already have the capsules, the permits, the insurance, and the flight center,” Lopez-Urdiales said. “It’s now just a question of securing the remaining funding.”

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