Amazon founder and outgoing CEO Jeff Bezos has announced he will fly into space with his brother next month, beating billionaire space-sector rivals Elon Musk and Richard Branson to the punch.
It will be the first human flight launched by his space company, Blue Origin, and is scheduled to take place on July 20 – the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
Bezos and his younger brother Mark, a former advertising executive and volunteer firefighter, will be joined by the winner of an auction who will have paid at least $2.8 million (£1.98 million) for their seat.
In an Instagram post, the billionaire said he had dreamed of travelling to space ever since he was five years old, adding: ‘I will take that journey with my brother. The greatest adventure, with my best friend.’
Bezos – who has an estimated personal worth of $186.2 billion (£131.5 billion) – is one of a number of billionaire entrepreneurs fuelling what has been dubbed the ‘new space race’, with each pumping billions of dollars into their respective start-ups with the aim of creating cheap, commercialised space travel.
But while Virgin Galactic founder Branson is expected to make a suborbital flight later this year, and SpaceX’s Musk has vowed to ‘die on Mars’, it is Bezos who will win the race to become the first of the trio to reach the edge of space.
Musk is yet to comment on the news, but Branson congratulated his rival, saying their two firms are ‘opening up access to space.’
He tweeted: ‘Many congratulations to @jeffbezos & his brother Mark on announcing spaceflight plans. Jeff started building Blue Origin in 2000, we started building Virgin Galactic in 2004 & now both are opening up access to Space – how extraordinary! Watch this space…’
There has been no love lost between Musk and Bezos, who have gone head-to-head on several projects for more than a decade.
Musk has branded his tech titan foe a ‘copycat’ over some of Amazon’s business ventures, while Bezos mocked the SpaceX CEO’s plan to send humans to Mars.
Blue Origin, founded in 2000, touts itself as means to provide cheaper access to space through the use of reusable rockets- specifically the New Shepard that has flown 15 times already
Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos inspects New Shepard’s West Texas launch facility. One seat on the flight, scheduled for July 20, is being auctioned
The two Bezos brothers – seen here in a video posted to Jeff’s Instagram – will be part of a crew of six on New Shepard
THE BILLIONAIRE SPACE RACE
Jeff Bezos in front of Blue Origin’s space capsule
Jeff Bezos’ space tourism project with Blue Origin is competing with a similar programme in development by Space X, the rocket firm founded and run by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, and Virgin Galactic, backed by Richard Branson.
Bezos revealed in April 2017 that he finances Blue Origin with around $1 billion (£720 million) of Amazon stock each year.
The system consists of a pressurised crew capsule atop a reusable ‘New Shepard’ booster rocket.
Jeff Bezos is the richest man in the world and Blue Origin has successfully used a single New Shepard Rocket six times.
At its peak, the capsule reached 65 miles (104 kilometres), just above the official threshold for space and landed vertically seven minutes after liftoff.
Crewed missions for astronauts or tourists have yet to be announced.
SpaceX appears to be leading the way in the billionaire space race with numerous launches carrying NASA equipment to the ISS and partnerships to send tourists to space by 2021.
On February 6 2018, SpaceX sent rocket towards the orbit of Mars, 140 million miles away, with Musk’s own red Tesla roadster attached.
Elon Musk with his Dragon Crew capsule
NASA has already selected two astronauts who will be on-board the first manned Dragon mission.
SpaceX has also started sending batches of 60 satellites into space to help form its Starlink network.
Musk hopes this will provide an interconnected web of satellites around Earth which will beam down free internet to people all around the world.
Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic are taking a different approach to conquering space.
It has repeatedly, and successfully, conducted test flights of the Virgin Galactic’s Unity spaceplane.
The first took place in December 2018 and the latest took place on February 22nd.
The flight accelerated to over 2,000 miles per hour (Mach 2.7).
More than 600 affluent customers to date, including celebrities Brad Pitt and Katy Perry, have reserved a $250,000 (£200,000) seat on one of Virgin’s space trips,
The billionaire mogul has previously said he expects Elon Musk to win the race to Mars with his private rocket firm SpaceX.
Richard Branson with the Virgin Galactic craft
SpaceShipTwo can carry six passengers and two pilots. Each passenger gets the same seating position with two large windows – one to the side and one overhead.
The space ship is 60ft long with a 90inch diameter cabin allowing maximum room for the astronauts to float in zero gravity.
It climbs to 50,000ft before the rocket engine ignites. SpaceShipTwo separates from its carrier craft, White Knight II, once it’s passed the 50-mile mark.
Passengers become ‘astronauts’ when they reach the Karman line, the boundary of Earth’s atmosphere.
The spaceship will then make a sub-orbital journey with approximately six minutes of weightlessness, with the entire flight lasting approximately 1.5 hours.
His launch into space is the culmination of more than two decades of work for Bezos, who has already announced plans to step down as CEO of Amazon just 15 days before the flight date.
Instead he will become executive chairman of the company he started in his garage in 1994 – giving him ‘time and energy’ to focus on other ventures.
Bezos, who founded Blue Origin in 2000, will blast into space on the first crewed flight of his New Shepard rocket ship and will spend at least 10 minutes floating in zero gravity inside the capsule during the suborbital sightseeing trip.
Blue Origin named the New Shepard program after astronaut Alan Shepard, who was the first American to fly into space exactly 60 years ago.
The flight will mark a huge milestone in the mission to send paying customers to the edge of space.
‘Ever since I was five years old, I’ve dreamed of traveling to space,’ Bezos posted to his Instagram account.
‘On July 20th, I will take that journey with my brother. The greatest adventure, with my best friend.’
In a short video announcement, he said: ‘I want to go on this flight because it’s a thing I’ve wanted to do all my life. It’s an adventure. It’s a big deal for me.’
His brother added: ‘I wasn’t even expecting him to say that he was going on the first flight.
‘And then when he asked me to go along, I was just awestruck. What a remarkable opportunity, not only to have this adventure, but to be able to do it with my best friend.’
There are five days to go before the auction for the third seat closes on June 12, with bidding having so far reached $2.8 million.
Last month a Blue Origin spokesman told DailyMail.com that the company had seen ‘more than 5,200 bidders from 136 countries.’
While Musk is yet to comment on the news, Branson has congratulated Bezos, describing how their two firms are ‘opening up access to space’
‘On July 20th, I will take that journey with my brother. The greatest adventure, with my best friend,’ said Bezos
The highest bid to ride on the New Shepard rocket is now $2.8 million, as shown in this shot of Blue Origin’s website
The announcement from Bezos comes two months after Musk trolled him on Twitter, joking that he ‘can’t get it up (to orbit)’, after Blue Origin filed a protest against NASA for giving SpaceX a $2.89billion contract to build a lunar lander.
The pair have also sparred publicly over their competing satellite plans and in January Musk again took aim at Bezos on Twitter, accusing the Amazon founder’s Project Kuiper of trying to ‘hamstring’ his Starlink venture.
Branson, founder of the other major sub-orbital space tourism operator, Virgin Galactic, is set to fly to the edge of space later this year, while SpaceX is due to launch the world’s first all-civilian space mission on September 15.
Called Inspiration4, it will go further than either Virgin Galactic or Blue Origin by soaring into orbit around the Earth.
It will feature a four-person team, launched on a Crew Dragon spaceship atop a Falcon 9 rocket, under the command of billionaire CEO of Shift4 Payments Jared Isaacman.
The other three on-board will be Sian Proctor, a community college educator in Arizona, Chris Sembroski, a former Air Force missileman from Washington, and Hayley Arceneaux, a physician assistant at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Tennessee.
Dubbed Inspiration4, its mission is designed primarily to raise awareness and support for the pediatric cancer centre, which successfully treated Arceneaux for bone cancer when she was a child.
Virgin Galactic, meanwhile, is aiming for commercial operations aboard its VSS Unity spacecraft to begin next year, following testing and several months of downtime for maintenance and other upgrades.
That testing will include a flight that will take Branson to the edge of space, currently scheduled to happen this year.
Virgin is expected to charge more than $250,000 for new reservations but has not announced final pricing. Sales will reopen following Branson’s flight.
The two Bezos brothers will be part of a crew of six on New Shepard, along with the highest bidder from the public auction. The remaining places will be taken by Blue Origin staff.
According to the company’s website, the highest bid from the public for the exclusive spot is $2.8 million (£1.98 million). It has stayed at this figure since the end of May.
Blue Origin closed the first round of the auction last month and said it had received more than 5,200 bidders from 136 countries, without disclosing the highest bid from the round.
Until June 10 (the second phase), the bidding will occur unsealed and online for everyone to see. Bidding concludes on June 12 with a live online auction.
The winning bid amount will be donated to Blue Origin’s foundation, Club for the Future, to inspire future generations to pursue careers in STEM and help invent the future of life in space.
Blue Origin touts itself as means to provide cheaper access to space through the use of reusable rockets – specifically the New Shepard, which has already flown 15 times.
Jared Isaacman, from left to right, Hayley Arceneaux, Sian Proctor and Chris Sembroski form the Inspiration4 crew. Inspiration4, spearheaded by SpaceX, is the world’s first all-civilian mission to space
Pictured, Inspiration4 mission commander Jared Isaacman, founder and chief executive officer of Shift4 Payments
BLUE ORIGIN: THE SPACE LAUNCH FIRM FOUNDED BY JEFF BEZOS
Amazon founder and outgoing CEO Jeff Bezos entered the space sector in 2000, two years before SpaceX was formed by Elon Musk.
Based in Kent, Washington, it originally focused on sub-orbital spaceflight services, building cheaper, more reliable and reusable launch vehicles.
They are gradually moving from suborbital to orbital flight in an incremental way and will launch humans to space on July 20.
Bezos will be on that first crewed flight along with his brother Mark, the winner of an auction, and three members of Blue Origin staff.
The firm currently has two launch vehicles, the suborbital New Shepherd, named for the first American in space, Alan Shepherd, and New Glenn, named for John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth.
Bezos has announced they are also working on New Armstrong, after the first man on the Moon, Neil Armstrong, although no details have been revealed.
This is similar to the mission of SpaceX, which has already moved on to orbital and larger format rockets and successfully launched astronauts to the space station.
The Blue Origin New Shepherd rocket’s sole mission is to take tourists to space, who would travel inside a sleek, white capsule atop the vehicle.
The capsule is designed with the iconic Blue Origin feather across the exterior and inside are six reclining seats that mirror those inside a helicopter.
Blue Origin’s grand plans are to send tourists who pay vast amounts of money 62 miles above Earth’s surface as they float in orbit.
At this altitude, passengers will experience weightlessness due to the zero gravity and see the curve of the planet with the darkness of space as the backdrop.
This is similar to the mission profile of Virgin Galactic, which, instead of launching its spaceship from the ground on a large rocket, flies up 44,000ft on a mothership, is released and then fires rockets to travel up to about 60 miles altitude.
Bezos has bigger ambitions for Blue Origin, with the New Glenn rocket currently scheduled for launch in 2022, it is a two stage launch vehicle enabling heavier lift launches to orbit and even reach the moon.
The firm are also working on New Armstrong, named after the first man to walk on the Moon, but haven’t unveiled any specific details about the rocket.
Speculation is that it will have a larger profile than New Glenn, able to carry more.
Unlike Musk, whose very public goal is to make humanity a multi-planetary species with bases on Mars by 2050, Bezos is a supporter of larger space stations with artificial habitats, which could be one of the reasons for the rumoured development of the larger New Armstrong rocket.