Billionaire Jeff Bezos launched to the edge of space on Tuesday along with his brother Mark, 82-year-old female aviator Wally Funk and 18-year-old physics student Oliver Daemen, in the first crewed flight of his rocket ship, New Shepard.
New Shepard launched its first human flight, NS-16, from Launch Site One in West Texas at 9 am EDT (6.30 pm IST). They travelled in a capsule with the biggest windows flown in space, offering stunning views of the Earth.
New Shepard, built by Bezos’ company Blue Origin, is designed to serve the burgeoning market for space tourism.
The rocket aims to fly beyond the Karman line and the trip will last approximately 11 minutes from launch to capsule landing. Astronauts will experience three to four minutes of weightlessness before returning to Earth in their space capsule.
The Karman line, 100 km above the ground, is the internationally recognised boundary of space. Jeff said that he is not nervous, but excited.
“People keep asking if I’m nervous. I’m not really nervous, I’m excited. I’m curious. I want to know what we’re going to learn,” Bezos, 57, was quoted as saying in the “CBS This Morning” programme on Tuesday.
“We’ve been training. This vehicle is ready. This crew is ready. This team is amazing. We just feel really good about it,” he added.
“Today marks the first time in history that a commercial company will launch a privately-funded and built spacecraft from a private launch range with astronauts on board,” Blue Origin shared in a tweet before the launch.
Bezos’ flight follows Richard Branson’s flight to the edge of space aboard Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity on July 11. Branson’s flight, however, did not go beyond the Karman Line. It climbed nearly 86 km above the Earth’s surface.
“Wishing the entire @blueorigin team a successful and safe flight from all of us,” Virgin Galactic said in a tweet on Tuesday.
Bezos’ flight is touted as the world’s first unpiloted suborbital flight.
The five-storey-tall New Shepard rocket, named after the first American in space, Alan Shepard, is designed to launch a crew capsule with seats for six roughly 340,000 feet into the sky toward the edge of space. A gumdrop-shaped Crew Capsule tops the booster with space for six passengers inside and large windows.
After reaching the Karman line, the capsule will detach from the booster, allowing those inside to view the curvature of the earth and experience weightlessness. The booster and capsule will then land separately, with the capsule landing in the west Texas desert with the help of parachutes.