Jeff Bezos, the richest person on Earth, is about to fly to the edge of space.
The billionaire founder of Amazon and Blue Origin is preparing to ride a New Shepard rocket up to the Kármán line – an imaginary boundary 62 miles (100 kilometers) above sea level, where many experts say space begins. There, he’s expected to experience weightlessness and stunning views of Earth for about three minutes.
The Blue Origin launch system has flown successfully 15 times, but never with people on board. This would be its first passenger flight. The rocket is scheduled to lift off from Blue Origin’s launch site in Texas at around 8 a.m. CT (9 a.m. ET) on Tuesday.
“To see the Earth from space, it changes you. It changes your relationship with this planet, with humanity,” Bezos said in an Instagram video announcing the launch. “I want to go on this flight because it’s a thing I’ve wanted to do all my life. It’s an adventure. It’s a big deal for me.”
Bezos won’t be flying solo. His brother, Mark, is set to join him, along with Wally Funk, an 82-year-old aviator who trained to go to space in the 1960s but was ultimately denied the opportunity because she was a woman. An as-yet-unidentified multimillionaire won an auction for the fourth seat, with the proceeds going to Blue Origin’s foundation, Club for the Future.
Watch Jeff Bezos and his companions fly to the edge of space
Blue Origin said there won’t be any “public viewing areas” in the vicinity of the launch site, but the company plans to stream the spaceflight live on its website.
The broadcast is set to start at 6:30 a.m. CT (7:30 a.m. ET), about 90 minutes before liftoff. We plan to embed that video feed here once it’s available.
If all goes according to plan, the New Shepard rocket will fire its engines to heave itself off the launchpad. As Bezos and his guests scream through the atmosphere, the force of the climb and the pull of Earth’s gravity – which should feel three times stronger than normal – are expected to pin them to their seats.
After three minutes, the rocket booster should fall away from the capsule that holds the passengers. That capsule should continue arcing above the Earth, and Bezos and his companions should feel weightless.
They’re expected to have three minutes to unbuckle, float around the cabin, and savor the views of the planet curving below. Then gravity should pull the spaceship into a high-speed plunge back to Earth. Three parachutes should balloon into the air to break the spaceship’s fall, carrying the capsule to a gentle landing in the Texas desert. A recovery crew should be waiting.
The entire flight should last 11 minutes.
Richard Branson launched to space first, but he didn’t pass the Kármán line
Richard Branson, the billionaire founder of Virgin Galactic, flew aboard his company’s space plane on Sunday. Though Branson insisted there’s no competition between him and Bezos, Virgin Galactic changed its launch schedule in a way that sent Branson to the edge of space before Bezos.
Blue Origin, for its part, maintains that Branson didn’t actually go to space because he only flew to about 55 miles above sea level.
“They’re not flying above the Kármán line and it’s a very different experience,” Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith told The New York Times after Branson announced his flight.
Blue Origin went after Virgin Galactic more directly on Twitter two days before Branson’s launch, sharing a graphic comparing the company’s space plane unfavorably to Blue Origin’s rocket.
“From the beginning, New Shepard was designed to fly above the Kármán line so none of our astronauts have an asterisk next to their name,” Blue Origin tweeted. “For 96% of the world’s population, space begins 100 km up at the internationally recognized Kármán line.”
The 4% the tweet refers to is the US. Both NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration have awarded astronaut wings to pilots who flew past 50 miles.
Aylin Woodward contributed reporting.
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