Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and three of his crewmates blasted into space aboard a Blue Origin rocket launch vehicle on its first human flight on Tuesday, reported Reuters. The voyage lasted for about 10 minutes and 20 seconds to the edge of space.
Bezos, the world’s richest man, took off in New Shephard spacecraft from Blue Origin’s Launch Site One facility, about 20 miles (32 km) outside the town of Van Horn, Texas, and flew around 66.5 miles, or 107 km, above the planet’s surface.
New Shepard was designed to move at speed of more than 3,540 kmph to an altitude beyond the Karman line, which is defined as the boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and space. It is 62 miles, or 100 kms, above sea level. The capsule separated from the rocket about two minutes into the flight to continue towards the Karman line.
During the flight, the billionaire and three other passengers experienced about four minutes of weightlessness and were able to unstrap from their seats to float around and see the world below, reported the BBC. The passengers could be heard cheering in the capsule as it passed the Karman Line.
“Oh my word, look at the world,” one of the passengers, Wally Funk, could be heard saying, according to BBC. Funk was a member of a group of women called the Mercury 13, who had undergone the same screening tests as the male astronauts but did not get to fly into space.
After the capsule reached a maximum altitude of around 106 km, it began its descent, parachuting down to a soft landing in the desert. “Best day ever,” Bezos said after this.
Besides these, other passengers were the billionaire’s brother Mark Bezos, senior vice president at New York-based charity Robin Hood, and 18-year-old high school graduate Oliver Daemen. The student is the son of Joes Daemen, the founder of Dutch private equity firm Somerset Capital Partners.
Jeff Bezos’ feat came nine days after Virgin Group founder Richard Branson travelled to space. Although Branson got to space first, Bezos flew higher. Branson had gone up to 53 miles, or 86 km.
Experts say that the Bezos’ flight was the world’s first unpiloted space flight with an all-civilian crew, according to Reuters.
Bezos’ flight coincided with the anniversary of American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin becoming the first humans to walk on the moon, on July 20, 1969. The spacecraft, New Shepard, is named after Alan Shepard, who became the first American in space in 1961.
Both Bezos and Branson have faced criticism on social media, with users saying that the money could be used to better use such as tackling climate change.
Branson defended himself, saying that the critics were not “fully educated” to understand what space does for Earth.
He explained that satellites in space were monitoring “the degradation of the rainforests, monitoring food distribution – even things like climate change.” “We need more spaceships going up to space, we don’t need less,” he added.