Visual by: Kunal Kaustav Duwarah
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos blasted off Blue Origin’s New Shepard flight on Tuesday from its Launch Site One in a remote location in the West Texas desert in the United States.
The founder of Blue Origin was accompanied by brother Mark Bezos, Wally Funk, and 18-year-old passenger Oliver Daemen.
“Congratulations to all of Team Blue past and present on reaching this historic moment in spaceflight history. This first astronaut crew wrote themselves into the history books of space, opening the door through which many after will pass,” Blue Origin said after the capsule carrying the passengers touched down safely.
Named after America’s first astronaut, Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket soared from remote West Texas on the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, a date chosen by Mr Bezos for its historical significance.
He held fast to it, even as Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson pushed up his own flight from New Mexico in the race for space tourist dollars and beat him to space by nine days.
Unlike Mr Branson’s piloted rocket plane, Mr Bezos’ capsule was completely automated and required no official staff on board for the anticipated 10-minute, up-and-down flight.
BRANSON’S VIRGIN GALACTIC LAUNCH
Branson’s flight earlier this month did steal some thunder from Bezos’ launch and prompted social-media jousting. Blue Origin dissed the Virgin Galactic flight in a July 9 tweet, calling it a “high altitude airplane” with puny windows. Blue Origin says it has the biggest windows in space.
On Monday, Virgin Galactic on Twitter wished the Blue Origin team a “successful and safe flight.” British billionaire Richard Branson, who soared miles above the earth in his Virgin Galactic rocket plane earlier this month, congratulated Amazon founder Jeff Bezos after his first trip to space.
“Well done @blueorigin, @jeffbezos, Mark, Wally and Oliver. Impressive! Very best to all the crew from me and all the team at @virgingalactic,” said Branson on Twitter.
Bezos, world’s wealthiest man, undertook Blue Origin’s first human mission on Sunday, spending a few minutes in space, which is being seen as a key moment in the space tourism industry for the super-rich.
THE FLIGHT TO SPACE
Bezos, wearing a blue flight suit and cowboy hat, and the other passengers got into an SUV for a short drive to the launch pad before walking up a tower and getting aboard the gleaming white spacecraft. Each passenger rang a shiny bell before boarding the craft’s capsule.
The astronauts boarded the crew capsule 30 minutes before the launch and the hatch closed six minutes later. They experienced three to four minutes of zero-g and travelled above the Kármán Line, the internationally-recognised boundary of space.
Blue Origin’s approach was slower and more deliberate. After 15 successful unoccupied test flights to space since 2015, Mr Bezos finally declared it was time to put people on board. The Federal Aviation Administration agreed last week, approving the commercial space license.
As they arrived in space Wally Funk was heard shouting, “It’s dark up here, and we are at 3000 miles per hour. “Six minutes into the flight, Bezos and crew strapped themselves back on to their seats as the spacecraft began descent.
The first parachute was deployed at nine minutes, slowing the capsule to a speed of 26 kilometres per hour. The capsule landed safely in the desert at a speed of 1.6 kilometers per hour, where the rescue and recovering team was waiting.
Mr Bezos, 57, who also owns The Washington Post, claimed the first seat. The next went to his 50-year-old brother, Mark Bezos, an investor and volunteer firefighter, then Funk and Daemen. They spent two days together in training.
Blue Origin’s recovery team joined the four-member crew to celebrate their return from space. The successful launch and subsequent touchdown made Wally Funk, 82, the oldest person and Daeman the youngest to have flown in space.
THE FUTURE AHEAD
Blue Origin — founded by Mr Bezos in 2000 in Kent, Washington, near Amazon’s Seattle headquarters — has yet to open ticket sales to the public or reveal the price.
For now, it’s booking auction bidders. Two more passenger flights are planned by year’s end, said Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith.
The recycled rocket and capsule that carried up Tuesday’s passengers were used on the last two space demos, according to company officials.
Virgin Galactic already has more than 600 reservations at $250,000 apiece. Founded by Mr Branson in 2004, the company has sent crew into space four times and plans two more test flights from New Mexico before launching customers next year.