Amazon’s Jeff Bezos scheduled to blast off to space in company-owned rocket

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos is scheduled to blast off next month aboard New Shepard, the rocket ship developed by Blue Origin, his space flight company.

The world’s richest man will take the first human flight on the spaceship, according to an Instagram post on Monday. He will make the trip into space July 20, if all goes according to plan, and will take his brother, Mark, with him.

“Ever since I was five years old, I’ve dreamed of traveling to space. On July 20th, I will take that journey with my brother. The greatest adventure, with my best friend. #GradatimFerociter,” Bezos wrote on the social media platform, hashtagging his company motto — Latin for “Step by Step, Ferociously.”

The flight is scheduled to take place about two weeks after Bezos steps down as CEO of Amazon. The same day — July 5 — Andy Jassy will take the helm as the company’s new CEO, The Hill reported, adding that Bezos’ new role with the company will be as executive chairman. July 5 marks the 27th anniversary of the company’s incorporation.

Bezos will become the first billionaire to reach space if the flight takes place. Fellow billionaire Elon Musk, whose own company, SpaceX, also builds vehicles for space travel, has yet to ride aboard one of his own ships. And so far, according to CNN, he has not made any plans to do so.

Blue Origin announced in April that people would soon be able to buy a ticket aboard New Shepard. The company has not yet announced ticket prices but it is currently holding an auction to sell the first seat. A statement from the company on Monday said that bidding was already at $2.8 million, with some 6,000 bidders from 143 countries taking part thus far. A live auction will be held Saturday; bidders must register by Thursday. The winning bid will be donated to Blue Origin’s foundation, Club for the Future, which helps fund STEM education and careers in space exploration.

The space ship launches vertically and was specifically designed to accommodate space tourism, The Washington Times noted. Prototype work began in 2006 and unmanned testing in 2015. The ship accommodates six passengers and travels just to the edge of space, with a few moments of zero gravity to give them an opportunity to experience the feeling.

“To see the Earth from space, it changes you,” Bezos said. “It changes your relationship with this planet, with humanity. It’s one Earth.”

“I want to go on this flight because it’s the thing I’ve wanted to do all my life. It’s an adventure. It’s a big deal for me. I invited my brother to come on this first flight because we’re closest friends,” he added.

Blue Origin was one of three firms that landed a contract from NASA last year to design a craft to land the first woman and next man on the moon, reports said. SpaceX, along with Dynetics, an Alabama-based company, were also awarded contracts, The Hill reported.

NASA officials said the awards, totaling nearly $1 billion, are part of the so-called Artemis program to return humans to the moon by 2024.

“This is the first time since the Apollo era that NASA has direct funding for a human landing system, and now we have companies on contract to do the work for the Artemis program,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in announcing the awards in April 2020.

Jon Dougherty

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