Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket launches carrying passengers Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and space tourism company Blue Origin, brother Mark Bezos, Oliver Daemen and Wally Funk, from its spaceport near Van Horn, Texas, Tuesday, July 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
(CNN Business) – Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man, went to space and back Tuesday morning on an 11-minute, supersonic joy ride aboard the rocket and capsule system developed by his space company, Blue Origin.
Riding alongside the multibillionaire were Bezos’ brother, Mark Bezos; Wally Funk, an 82-year-old pilot and one of the “Mercury 13” women who trained to go to space in the 20th century but never got to fly; and an 18-year old recent high school graduate named Oliver Daemen who was Blue Origin’s first paying customer and whose father, an investor, purchased his ticket.
Funk and Daemen became the oldest and youngest people, respectively, ever to travel to space. And this flight marked the first-ever crewed mission for Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital space tourism rocket, which the company plans to use to take wealthy thrill seekers on high-flying joy rides in the months and years to come.
The four passengers on Tuesday strapped into their New Shepard crew capsule at Blue Origin’s launch site in rural West Texas just before the rocket lit its engines at 8:12 am CT, sending the vehicle blaring past the speed of sound and up to more than 65 miles above the desert landscape, topping out at an altitude of 351,210 feet. At the peak of the flight path, the passengers were weightless for about three minutes and were allowed to unstrap themselves from their seat to float around and soak in panoramic views of the Earth and the cosmos
The launch was visible to reporters on the ground, with the rocket streaking across the almost cloudless Texas sky with a blooming contrail. The bright blaze of the rocket engine looked almost like a star or planet as it rose into the sky. Bezos and crew could be heard on Blue Origin’s livestream cheering as they moved about the capsule during the microgravity portion of the flight.
“It’s dark up here, oh my word!” Funk could be heard saying.
Bezos declared it “the best day ever” on his communications check upon landing.