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07/20/2021

Bezos joins billionaire astronaut club

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
Dan Berthiaume profile picture
Photo via twitter.com/blueorigin

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos went into space after Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson, but he flew higher.

Blue Origin, the spaceflight services company founded by Bezos in 2000, successfully reached space on Tuesday, July 20, 2021 – the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. 

Bezos initially announced the launch on June 7. He officially stepped down as Amazon CEO on July 5, citing the desire to dedicate more time to initiatives such as Blue Origin and the Bezos Earth Fund as part of the reason. 

The capsule of Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft reached an altitude of 66 miles, roughly 4 miles beyond the Kármán line, which some space experts and organizations view as the official boundary of outer space. New Shepard reached a top speed of over 2,200 MPH during the 10-minute, 10-second flight. The spacecraft took off and returned from a remote desert area of Texas.

Branson reached an altitude of 53.5 miles during the Virgin Galactic Unity 22 flight on July 11, 2021. Although Bezos and Blue Origin have challenged whether the Unity 22 flight truly reached outer space since it did not cross the Kármán line, Branson, Virgin Galactic, and most media outlets are all assigning credit to the Unity 22 flight for reaching space.

In addition to Bezos and his brother Mark, passengers included Wally Funk, an 82-year-old veteran of the NASA Women in Space program who was denied the chance to fly into space in the 1960s due to her gender. Funk became the oldest person to ever travel into space. In addition, 18-year-old Oliver Daeman, a Netherlands native whose father bid in a public auction to reserve a seat on the flight, also took part. 

“This is a tiny little step of what Blue Origin is going to do,” Bezos said to CNBC after New Shepard returned to Earth. “What we’re really trying to do is build reusable space vehicles. It’s the only way to build a road to space, and we need to build a road to space so that our children can build the future.”