Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin crew soar into space, land safely

Jeff Bezos greets a Blue Origin crew member upon exiting the New Shepard capsule  after the historic first crewed flight of the vehicle from Texas on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of Blue Origin
1 of 7 | Jeff Bezos greets a Blue Origin crew member upon exiting the New Shepard capsule  after the historic first crewed flight of the vehicle from Texas on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of Blue Origin

July 20 (UPI) -- Amazon founder Jeff Bezos set several records for human spaceflight Tuesday as he and three crewmates soared into space aboard a Blue Origin rocket from Texas, and landed safely in the desert about 10 minutes later.

The New Shepard suborbital rocket lifted off about 9:12 a.m. EDT from the company's Corn Ranch launch site 160 miles east of El Paso.


As the capsule reached space, the crew was heard over a live broadcast cheering and whooping. "It's dark up here!" said aviator Wally Funk, 82, now the oldest person to fly into space.

"You have a very happy crew up here, I want you to know," Bezos said.

The four crew members ascended the launch tower and reached the capsule via a walkway about 30 minutes before liftoff. They were strapped into seats in the capsule for the countdown.


Upon liftoff, the New Shepard rocket named RSS First Step rose into the cloud-streaked morning sky.

Family members greeted the crew with hugs and champagne as the crew emerged following the flight.

The rocket, about five stories tall, accelerated to about 2,200 mph emitting 110,000 pounds of thrust. It created gravity forces of about three times the normal pull on Earth.

Bezos "has dreamed of going to space since he was a little boy, and [he] will be sitting in seat number six, right next to the hatch," said Ariane Cornell, Blue Origin's director of astronaut sales.

"I literally have had goose bumps ... and they haven't gone away," said Bezos' brother and crewmate Mark Bezos, 53, in an Instagram post prior to launch.

Funk and the Bezos brothers rode into space with passenger Oliver Daemen, 18, now the youngest person to reach space.

Daemen also became the first paying customer on a private company's spacecraft. His father secured the seat for the teen after a Blue Origin auction June 12. The winner bid $28 million, but backed out because of a scheduling conflict, the company said, and Daemen's father was the second-highest bid.

"We are also flying, of course, our first paying commercial customer, and the fact that we're doing this on a private vehicle ... from a private launch site is just something that hasn't been done," Audrey Powers, vice president resident of New Shepard operations, said during a press conference prior to launch.


Bezos became the second person to reach space aboard his own company's private spacecraft, the Blue Origin capsule. Just nine days earlier, Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic, secured that record first, but he launched from the public Spaceport America, which is owned by the state of New Mexico, 170 miles south of Albuquerque.

Branson congratulated Bezos on his accomplishment.

"Well done @blueorigin, @jeffbezos, Mark, Wally and Oliver. Impressive! Very best to all the crew from me and all the team at @virgingalactic," he tweeted.

Elon Musk, owner of another private aerospace company, SpaceX, also tweeted his congratulations.

Bezos chose July 20 for the launch because it is the anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969. He plans for Blue Origin to eventually build orbital rockets and facilities on the moon -- and even asteroids or Mars.

After reaching space, the crew experience a few minutes of weightlessness before returning to Earth.

During a press conference after the flight, the company played video showing the space quartet floating in microgravity with the curvature of the Earth visible through the windows.


"I loved every minute of it," Funk said. "I just wish it was longer because I ... could do a lot more rolls and flips and so forth, but there wasn't quite enough room for the four of us to do all that."

"It was a bit more emotional than I would have thought," Daemen said. "People on the ground were very emotional [after the flight] and we were just having fun."

Unlike many other spaceports, Blue Origin's facility is in a remote area, on a vast ranch property with no public vantage points for viewing. But hundreds of Blue Origin employees were shown watching the broadcast and cheering at the company's headquarters in Kent, Wash.

Blue Origin intends the launch to begin a new period of space tourism, leading to more space exploration.

Bezos said at the news conference that his company plans two more flights this year with people on board. He said Blue Origin is approaching $100 million in sales, and will start building more rockets.

"We're going to build a road to space, so that our kids and their kids can build the future, and we need to do that ... to solve the problems here on Earth," he said.


Out-of-this-world images from space

The International Space Station is pictured from the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour during a flyaround of the orbiting lab that took place following its undocking from the Harmony module’s space-facing port on November 8. Photo courtesy of NASA

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