American billionaire Jeff Bezos, his brother Mark, an 82-year-old aviator and a paying teenage tourist are set to lift off today, July 20th, aboard the maiden spaceflight of Blue Origin.
The rocket and space tourism company has been Bezos’ passion project since its inception in 2000, financed by selling $1 billion in stock of his consumer goods giant Amazon each year.
Tonight, he puts his money where his mouth is. After 15 successful test flights, the New Shepard space capsule and its accompanying rocket will take Blue Origin’s first manned crew flight to the edge of space in the skies above Texas.
The Blue Origin Launch
The 18-metre-tall New Shepard NS-14 booster rocket will take off at 08:00 Tuesday local time (23:00 Tuesday AEST) from Blue Origin’s spaceport, around 40 kilometres north of the small town of Van Horn, Texas.
The crew capsule sits atop of the New Shepard rocket, which will reach speeds of up to Mach 3 upon launch, after which it will detach to achieve a peak altitude of around 106 kilometres. Here, the occupants will experience 3-4 minutes of weightlessness before the capsule descends under parachutes, landing in the desert approximately 10 minutes after takeoff.
Unlike Richard Branson’s recent foray to the edge of space aboard Virgin Galactic, the New Shepard is fully autonomous. No pilots, no engineers – just the biggest windows ever fitted to a spacecraft.
The rocket and capsule that will be used in Blue Origin’s momentous debut have flown twice before. Like Virgin Galactic and SpaceX, the promise of reusability is at the core of the company’s mission to make space travel financially viable in the future.
Bezos extended a personal invitation to two of his three accompanying passengers. His 50-year-old brother, Mark, as well as female aviation pioneer Wally Funk.
Funk was one of 13 female pilots (of the famous Mercury 13) who underwent the same training as NASA’s Mercury 7 astronauts in the 1960’s, but was denied a seat because of her gender. At 82-years-old, today she’ll become the oldest person to travel to space.
Interestingly, the inaugural Blue Origin launch will actually break two records at the same time in a fortunate turn of events this past week for 18-year-old Dutchman, Oliver Daemen.
The teenager has nabbed the final seat aboard the New Shepard spaceflight after the anonymous party who initially won the auction with a US$28 million bid was such an operator, that he faced a “scheduling conflict” deemed more important than a history-making trip to space with the world’s richest man.
It also helps that the soon-to-be spacefaring wunderkind is the son of Joes Daemen, Founder & CEO of Netherlands-based private equity firm Somerset Capital Partners (yes, there’s the lightbulb moment).
Daemen was scheduled for a flight later this year but was tapped on the shoulder to take the vacant seat just last week. Today will make history as the youngest person to travel to space.
How To Watch The Blue Origin Launch In Australia
The New Shepard launch will be live-streamed from 9:30 pm AEST on the Blue Origin website, with the launch (weather permitting) slated for 11 pm.
Now, read up on the incredible 51gs Max Verstappen experienced in yesterday’s colossal crash at the British Grand Prix that makes a rocket launch look like a walk in the park.