Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and three crewmates soared high above the Texas desert aboard his space venture Blue Origin’s New Shepard launch vehicle on Tuesday (July 20) and returned safely to Earth, a historic suborbital flight that helps to inaugurate a new era of private commercial space tourism.
The spacecraft ignited its BE-3 engines for a liftoff from Blue Origin’s Launch Site One facility about 20 miles (32 km) outside the rural town of Van Horn, flying about 66.5 miles (107 km) above the planet’s surface. There were generally clear skies with a few patchy clouds on a cool morning for the launch.
The 57-year-old American billionaire flew on a voyage lasting about 10 minutes and 20 seconds to the edge of space, nine days after Briton Richard Branson was aboard his competing space tourism company Virgin Galactic’s successful inaugural suborbital flight.
Bezos gave a thumbs-up sign from inside the capsule after landing on the desert floor before stepping out, wearing a cowboy hat and blue flight suit, and giving company employees high fives. Later Bezos and members of his team celebrated by popping champagne bottles near the rocketship.
Bezos and his brother Mark Bezos, a private equity executive, were joined by two others – pioneering female aviator Wally Funk,82, and recent high school graduate Oliver Daemen,18, who became the oldest and youngest people to reach space.