*Jeff Bezos completed his boyhood dream Tuesday morning as his rocket company’s first flight with people on board flew into space for several weightless minutes, then landed safely back on earth.
The Amazon founder was accompanied by his brother Mark Bezos, 82-year-old aviation pioneer Wally Funk, one of 13 female pilots who went through the same tests as NASA’s all-male astronaut corps in the early 1960s but never made it into space; and 18-year-old Oliver Daemen, a last-minute fill-in for the mystery winner of a $28 million auction who opted for a later flight. The Dutch teen’s father took part in the auction, and agreed on a lower undisclosed price last week when Blue Origin offered his son the vacated seat.
“Best day ever,” Bezos said after the capsule touched down on the desert floor at the end of the 10-minute flight.
Named after America’s first astronaut, Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket soared from remote West Texas on the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, a date chosen by Bezos for its historical significance. He follows Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson, who launched his own flight from New Mexico just nine days earlier. Unlike Branson’s piloted rocket plane, Bezos’ capsule was 100 percent automated and required no official staff on board for the roundtrip flight.
Blue Origin reached an altitude of about 66 miles, more than 10 miles higher than Branson’s July 11 ride. The 60-foot booster accelerated to Mach 3 or three times the speed of sound to get the capsule high enough, before separating and landing upright.
The passengers had several minutes of weightlessness to float around the spacious white capsule. The window-filled capsule landed under parachutes, with Bezos and his guests briefly experiencing nearly six times the force of gravity, or 6 G’s, on the way back.
Watch the entire event below, with blast off just over the 1 hr, 2 min mark: