Jeff Bezos will soon take an 11-minute flight aboard a rocket his space exploration company built. Here’s how his childhood obsession with space led to Blue Origin’s unprecedented spaceflight.

jeff bezos blue origin blue moon
  • Jeff Bezos will be aboard Blue Origin’s first human spaceflight in July.
  • The Amazon CEO and Blue Origin founder has been a space enthusiast since childhood.
  • In 2013, he traveled out to sea for three weeks to retrieve pieces of the Apollo 11 spacecraft.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

On July 20, Jeff Bezos will be among the first human passengers to fly aboard New Shepard, a spacecraft built by his space exploration company, Blue Origin.

While it’s an unusual – and potentially risky – experiment, it’s not a very surprising one: Bezos has been obsessed with space since childhood.

“You’ve been passionate about space your whole life, but this is not just a plaything for you,” Mark Bezos said during an interview with his brother in 2017.

“No. God, no,” Bezos replied.

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.

In a few weeks, 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.

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Jeff Bezos attends the premiere of “Star Trek Beyond” in 2016.

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.

Jeff Bezos Blue Origin

Bezos is stepping aside as Amazon CEO in favor of spending more time working on Blue Origin

When Bezos announced in February that he will step down as CEO of Amazon this year, 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.

“I get increasing conviction with every passing year that Blue Origin, the space company, is the most important work that I’m doing,” he said in 2018 during an interview with Axel Springer CEO Mathias Döpfner. (Axel Springer is Insider’s parent company.)

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.

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Elon Musk’s SpaceX has launched roast turkey, cranberry sauce, and cornbread dressing to astronauts on the International Space Station

elon musk space x SpaceX Chief Engineer Elon Musk speaks in front of Crew Dragon cleanroom at SpaceX Headquarters in Hawthorne, California on October 10, 2019. (Photo by Yichuan Cao/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

  • A SpaceX cargo ship carrying meteorite samples, live mice, and a roast turkey dinner is set to arrive at the International Space Station (ISS) Monday afternoon.
  • This marks the first flight of SpaceX’s updated Dragon cargo ship. The new design can carry more cargo and can be used for up to five return journeys, up from three for the previous model.
  • The capsule will join another Dragon ship already docked at the station, marking the first time SpaceX has had two capsules there at the same time.
  • This mission is bringing around 6,400 pounds of supplies to the ISS, including around 4,400 pounds of research. This includes microbes and meteorite samples and 3D-engineered heart tissue.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

SpaceX launched a capsule carrying a roast turkey, live mice, and meteorite samples to the International Space Station (ISS) on Sunday morning.

It marked the 21st commercial resupply mission for Elon Musk’s aerospace giant, and the first flight of SpaceX’s updated Dragon cargo ship.

The unmanned capsule, which was launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre, Florida by a Falcon 9 rocket booster, is expected to arrive on Monday at 1:30 p.m. EST, after the mission was delayed by a day due to poor weather.

This mission is bringing around 6,400 pounds of supplies to the ISS, including around 4,400 pounds of research. This includes microbes and meteorite samples to investigate how microgravity affects biomining, 3D-engineered heart tissue, a medical device that will provide quick blood test results for astronauts, and a new airlock.

It will join another Dragon capsule that docked at the ISS last month, and it will be the first time SpaceX has had two capsules there at the same time. SpaceX is aiming to always have at least one Dragon docked at the ISS.

The new Dragon model can carry roughly 20% more weight than the previous one.

The capsule is also bringing 40 mice, which will be used to research the impact that living on the ISS can have on astronauts’ bones and eyes, AP reported.

The experiments make it the “the ultimate Christmas present” for NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, Kenny Todd, NASA’s deputy space station program manager, said during a press conference on December 4

When asked whether the capsule was bringing personal presents to the ISS for the seven astronauts currently on board, Todd said: “Let’s see what happens when they open the hatch … I’m optimistic.”

Todd confirmed that the Dragon is bringing a festive meal for the astronauts, including roast turkey, cornbread dressing, cranberry sauce, shortbread biscuits, and tubes of icing.

Read more: Here’s how many users Starlink needs to break even, according to experts

The capsule will remain at the ISS for around a month before returning to Earth with experiments and old equipment.

The first stage of the Falcon 9 booster detached and landed on SpaceX’s drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You” in the Atlantic Ocean about nine minutes after launch. The ship catches falling boosters so that SpaceX can use them again.

The updated Dragon model is capable of up to five flights to and from the ISS, compared to three for the previous version, and can dock there by itself rather than using the ISS’s robot arm for anchoring.

It can also stay on the station more than twice as long as the previous version of Dragon, and can hold twice as many powered lockers, which preserve science and research samples during transport to and from Earth. 

The flight was the first of at least nine agreed under a space resupply contract between SpaceX and NASA.

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