Tue. May 17th, 2022

Jeff Bezos

plans to travel to space next month as part of the first crew carried by Blue Origin, the

Amazon.com Inc.

founder’s space company.

Mr. Bezos said in an Instagram post Monday that he will be one of the inaugural passengers on Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft, during its first crewed flight scheduled for launch from West Texas on July 20. Mr. Bezos, 57 years old, said that his brother,

Mark Bezos,

will also be on board.

Blue Origin and

Richard Branson’s

Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc.

are competing in the emerging market for suborbital travel. After years of delays, the two companies are promising passengers a short joy ride for prices expected to be less than $500,000, based on prior comments from Virgin executives. Mr. Branson plans to join Virgin Galactic’s third crewed test flight later this year.

Blue Origin’s New Shepard has made 15 uncrewed test flights, which the company said demonstrates the mission’s safety. Most commercial aircraft don’t carry passengers before undergoing an intensive series of hundreds of piloted flights.

“I want to go on this flight because it’s a thing I’ve wanted to do all my life,” Mr. Bezos said in a video posted to Instagram. “It’s an adventure. It’s a big deal for me.”

Mr. Bezos is stepping down as Amazon’s chief executive July 5 after leading the company for more than two decades, and has invested heavily in Blue Origin, contributing as much as roughly $1 billion a year.

The passenger list for Blue Origin’s July flight is set to include the winner of a charity auction that attracted nearly 6,000 participants. The highest bid on Monday climbed $400,000 to $3.2 million, Blue Origin said, with the winner decided in a live auction slated for June 12.

Mark Bezos is a co-founder of HighPost Capital LLC and is on the leadership council for Robin Hood, a New York City-based nonprofit organization that invests in antipoverty programs. He has also served as a volunteer firefighter.

The New Shepard capsule has room for six people and is fully autonomous. A rocket propels the craft briefly above the Karman Line—an imaginary boundary about 62 miles above sea level that is considered the beginning of space—before the capsule returns to the ground beneath a parachute around 10 minutes after launch.

Blue Origin’s New Shepard capsule, shown here in an undated illustration, has room for six people and is fully autonomous.


Blue Origin/Associated Press

Mr. Bezos and his brother can expect to travel at three times the speed of sound and experience three times the force of gravity during their planned trip, less than on some large roller coasters. Prospective astronauts will have three days of training before flying,

Ariane Cornell,

Blue Origin’s sales director, said last month.

Passengers have to be able to dress in a one-piece flight suit, and must be able to climb the New Shepard’s launch tower—about seven stories up—in under 90 seconds, Blue Origin said. The winning bidder will have to waive his or her right to sue Blue Origin and must sign a consent form about the flight’s risks that is required by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The FAA, which regulates space launches because they travel through public airspace, has seen traffic grow quickly as commercial spaceflight expands.

NASA is working with SpaceX, Blue Origin and others to search for water on the moon. Water is the foundation for rocket propellant, which could supply refueling stations in the cosmos and make Mars trips less costly. Photo illustration: Crystal Tai

“This year, we’re expecting a licensed launch or re-entry on average about once a week,” FAA Administrator

Steve Dickson

said in March.

For their space-tourism efforts, Blue Origin and other companies including Virgin Galactic are targeting suborbital commercial space flight, where crew members are weightless for minutes and don’t have to endure the rigors of specialized training for longer periods in space and re-entry.

Virgin Galactic went public in a 2019 merger with a blank-check company. Its spacecraft, which shoots into the lower portions of space after being dropped by a highflying airplane, has carried professional pilots on test flights. Mr. Branson plans to be one of the first space tourists the company will carry, CEO

Michael Colglazier

said last month, with commercial flights planned next year. Its shares gained 8% on Monday.

SpaceX, the rocket company led by

Tesla Inc.


Elon Musk,

has plans this year to carry paying passengers higher than Blue Origin or Virgin Galactic, taking them into orbit. Passengers with all three companies would join the fewer than 600 people who have ever traveled in space, according to Blue Origin’s tally.

As suborbital spaceflight promises to ease passenger requirements, Mr. Bezos’s trip would make him one of a small number of amateurs who have flown in space. As space-shuttle missions of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration became more routine in the 1980s, the agency added nonprofessionals to some crews. Congressmen Jake Garn and Bill Nelson were among the participants on shuttle missions. Mr. Nelson was sworn in last month as NASA administrator.

In 1986, NASA broadened access to space flight by including a high-school teacher, Christa McAuliffe, as a crew member on a flight of the Challenger space shuttle. The spacecraft exploded seconds after it was launched because of an engineering defect, killing all on board.

Other nonprofessionals have visited orbital space on Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft. The first person to fund such a trip himself, Dennis Tito, paid for a multiday flight to the International Space Station in 2001. Space Adventures Inc., the Virginia-based company that organized Mr. Tito’s trip, has since sent six other civilians into space on Soyuz rockets, with another planned for later this year.

Russian space agency Roscosmos said last month that it separately plans to send a film director and an actress to the space station this year to film scenes for a movie.

SpaceX also wants to launch nonprofessionals into orbit in 2021. The company has already sent experienced crew to the space station aboard its Dragon capsule. It intends to send four passengers on a multiday trip into orbit in September using the capsule.

Mr. Musk has previously said he started SpaceX so he could travel to Mars, but hasn’t detailed when he would take his first trip to space.

“I would like to die on Mars—just not on impact,” Mr. Musk said in 2013 at the South by Southwest festival.

Write to Matt Grossman at [email protected]

Star Tours

More WSJ coverage on commercial space travel, selected by the editors.

Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

By rahul