Four people will be aboard the New Shepard, the Blue Origin rocket named for the first American in space, when it is set to launch.
An auction winner paid more than $28 million for an 11-minute ride into space alongside Jeff Bezos, on a reusable rocket launched by his space company, Blue Origin. Nearly 7,600 people from 159 countries registered to bid on the flight aboard the New Shepard — its first with passengers — which is expected to launch on July 20 from West Texas. In addition to the winning bidder, who was not identified, and Mr. Bezos, passengers will include Mr. Bezos’ brother, Mark Bezos, and a fourth still-unnamed astronaut.
The auction winner’s name will be released in roughly two weeks, according to a video on Blue Origin’s website. The auctioned ticket went for $28 million, but the winner must also pay a 6 percent buyer’s commission, bringing the total cost to nearly $30 million. The monthlong auction took place in three phases — the first, with online bidding where bids weren’t visible, ended on May 19 at $1.4 million. When the online bidding became visible, the ticket reached $4.8 million, the price at which live online bidding began. The proceeds from the winning ticket will be donated to Blue Origin’s foundation, Club for the Future, a science and education charity that aims to “inspire future generations to pursue careers” in science, technology and math, and stir an interest in space exploration.
Blue Origin’s rocket is named after Alan Shepard, the first American to go to space, in 1961. The vehicle has undergone 15 test flights, none with passengers. New Shepard is designed to take six people on short suborbital flights — rising above the 62-mile altitude generally regarded as the edge of space but then immediately coming back down instead of accelerating to the high velocities needed to enter orbit. Passengers will arrive in advance of the launch for training. According to the video, the passenger capsule sits atop the booster — they separate at an altitude of about 250,000 feet, but they continue their ascent. At roughly 350,000 feet, or about 10 times higher than normal commercial jet flights, passengers will be allowed to unbuckle for three minutes of weightlessness.
After that, they’ll be asked to buckle up and their descent will be guided by three parachutes, according to the video. Blue Origin’s biggest competitors in private rocketry, SpaceX and Virgin Galactic, have both announced a number of trips. In February, Mr. Bezos said he would step down as chief executive of Amazon on July 5. Andy Jassy, the chief of Amazon’s cloud computing division, will become chief executive, while Mr. Bezos will become executive chairman. Mr. Bezos said he wanted to put more time and energy into his other passions, including Blue Origin.
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