The billionaire tycoon is now the second after Richard Branson to fly onboard his own rocket to space with a full crew
Space travel is no longer a thing talked about in sci-fi films, it is now the future. Jeff Bezos has rocketed to space in a first full-crew flight onboard his rocket ship, New Shephard, making him the second after Richard Branson to try out their own vehicles in what some are calling the ‘billionaire space race’.
The Amazon founder was accompanied by his brother, Mark Bezos, Wally Funk, and an 82-year-old pioneer of the space race, and an 18-year-old student aboard the first flight of his private space company, Blue Origin. Jeff Bezos plans to make space tourism commercial to fit a growing demand for space travel. The capsule touched back down to earth after a 10-minute, 10-second flight mission, and Jeff Bezos exclaimed: “Best day ever!” The spaceship featured large windows with spectacular views of the earth in the distance, and crew members performed somersaults and tumbles during the four minutes of weightlessness in space.
However, the pioneers of space travel have been criticised for offering what some have seen as ‘joy rides’ for the richest of the rich. Jeff Bezos insisted he had an environmental vision: “We need to take all heavy industry, all polluting industry and move it into space, and keep Earth as this beautiful gem of a planet that it is,” he told MSNBC. “It’s going to take decades and decades to achieve, but you have to start, and big things start with small steps… that’s what this sub-orbital tourism mission allows us to do, it allows us to practice over and over.” Upon landing, the crew held a self-congratulatory ceremony where Bezos and three others had sapphire astronaut ‘wings’ pinned to their flying suits. Bezos later handed $100 million cheques to two celebrities to give out to charities of their choice, in response to criticism over what many have called an extravagant joy ride.
The oldest person on the spaceship, Ms Funk, was a member of a group of women called the Mercury 13. They underwent the same screening tests as male astronauts but never got to fly the US national space programme. Oliver Daemen, 18, is the son of a Dutch financier and originally secured a seat on the second flight, but scored a space onboard the first flight after the anonymous winner at a public auction had to pull out of the trip. The crew brought along with them iconic items from aviation history including a piece of canvas used on the Wright brothers’ first plane, a medallion made from the vehicle that performed the first hot air balloon flight in 1783 and a pair of goggles used by pilot Amelia Earhart.
Jeff Bezos recently resigned as chief executive of Amazon, the e-commerce giant he founded, to concentrate on his other ventures, including Blue Origin. Bezos was beaten to space by Virgin founder Richard Branson, who last week rocketed to space aboard a Virgin Galactic spaceplane, the VSS Unity. Meanwhile, Elon Musk has leapt much further ahead in his space ventures, flying astronauts to the International Space Station last year and shooting for a trip around the moon in 2023. What Elon is doing is on the order of 50 times more difficult than Blue Origin’s trip this week, said Peter Diamandis, founder of the X Prize, which helped to kickstart the commercial space industry more than two decades ago.