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Blue Origin opens online auction for seat on 1st crewed flight

Blue Origin plans to launch its first crewed flight on the New Shepard rocket in July. File Photo courtesy of Blue Origin
Blue Origin plans to launch its first crewed flight on the New Shepard rocket in July. File Photo courtesy of Blue Origin

May 5 (UPI) -- Washington-based spaceflight company Blue Origin opened up an auction Wednesday for a seat on its first crewed flight to the edge of space in July.

The New Shepard suborbital space tourism rocket is expected to be launched July 20 from the company's spaceport near Van Horn, Texas, about 120 miles southeast of El Paso.

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Blue Origin, which is owned by Amazon's Jeff Bezos, said the auction is open to anyone, with sealed online bidding through May 19. Starting then, bids will be visible and must exceed the highest bid to continue in the auction.

There will be a June 12 live, online auction to conclude the bidding process and determine a winner.

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"The winning bid amount will be donated to Blue Origin's foundation, Club for the Future, to inspire future generations to pursue careers in STEM and help invent the future of life in space," the company announced.

The Wednesday auction start coincides with the 60th anniversary of the day the first American flew in space -- Alan Shepard. The New Shepard rocket is named after the astronaut, who went on to walk on the moon in 1971.

Those who wish to bid on the Blue Origin seat must fit certain physical requirements, weighing between 110 pounds and 223 pounds and be between 5 feet and 6 feet, 4 inches tall. They must also be able to withstand up to 3Gs during ascent and 5.5 Gs during descent.

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Blue Origin in April carried out what was expected to be its last test flight for the New Shepard rocket before carrying people. The goal is to allow true space tourism for anyone, said Kevin Sproge, Blue Origin's director of space architecture for New Shepard.

"You don't need to be a NASA astronaut, you don't need to be a trained engineer, we want artists and poets, teachers and scientists," he said.

The New Shepard capsule is outfitted with improved acoustics to dampen the roar during flight, better interior temperature regulation, crew display panels, and speakers with a microphone and push-to-talk button at each seat, the company said.

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In 2001, California businessman Dennis Tito paid Russia's space agency $20 million to become the first tourist in space. The agency launched the millionaire to the International Space Station and brought him back to Earth.

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