Jeff Bezos has made it to space, officially beating out Richard Branson as the richest man ever to travel onboard a successful spaceflight.
Bezos launched onboard the New Shepard, a rocket designed by his spaceflight company Blue Origin, today, July 20, in what was the world’s first unpiloted civilian suborbital flight.
The New Shepard carried Bezos and four other civilian passengers into suborbital space, making it the first fully autonomous spacecraft to carry an all-civilian crew. Also onboard the flight was Bezos’ brother Mark, former Space Shuttle astronaut Nicholas Patrick, 18-year old physics student Oliver Daemen and pioneering female aviator Wally Funk, 82.
As well as being the world’s first autonomous all-civilian spaceflight, the New Shepard voyage also set records for carrying the richest man, the youngest person and the oldest person ever to go to space. Daemen – the son of a Dutch venture capitalist – was selected by Blue Origin after a passenger who paid $28 million for a seat on board the flight dropped out due to a ‘scheduling conflict.’
Bezos was beaten into space by Richard Branson, who took the title of the first billionaire in space when he made his own voyage onboard Virgin Galactic’s Unity 22 test flight last week.
However, in a Twitter tit-for-tat, Blue Origin has disputed whether Branson’s flight actually counted as ‘going to space,’ pointing out that he travelled only 53 miles above sea level – 9 miles below the Kármán line that is widely recognised as marking the boundary between Earth and space.
The New Shepard spacecraft reached an altitude of 62 miles above sea level in an 11-minute journey, after launching from Blue Origin’s reusable launchpad in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
The record-setting flight comes more than two decades after Bezos founded Blue Origin in 2000, and marks a major milestone in the space tourism industry. Bezos has previously explained that space travel was ‘the only way’ he could see himself spending his vast wealth, and ahead of the flight said that ‘to see the Earth from space, it changes you, it changes your relationship with this planet, with humanity.’
While Bezos will likely remain the richest man ever to go to space for some time to come, the New Shepard’s achievements may be surpassed within the next few months. In September, Elon Musk’s SpaceX is expected to launch an all-civilian crew into space aboard its Crew Dragon capsule to orbit the Earth for several days.
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