Take a peek inside Jeff Bezos’ first-class space flight – Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket and spaceship photos revealed (and it’s fancy)
“Ever since I was five years old, I’ve dreamed of travelling to space,” Bezos said in an Instagram post announcing his plans last week.
“I want to go on this flight because it’s a thing I wanted to do all my life. It’s an adventure – it’s a big deal for me.”
The capsule’s round, pressurised cabin has room for six passengers. But Jeff and Mark Bezos only plan to bring two companions to space – neither of whom have yet been named.
One of those passengers won the seat in an auction on Saturday, bidding US$28 million that will go to Blue Origin’s foundation, Club for the Future. Following the auction, Blue Origin said it would announce the fourth person in the coming weeks.
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The five-storey rocket has flown successfully 15 times, but never with people on board
The upcoming flight would make Bezos and his companions the rocket’s first passengers.
If all goes according to plan, New Shepard will lift off from Blue Origin’s West Texas launch pad and carry Bezos and his companions to the edge of space
The force of the climb and the pull of Earth’s gravity – which will feel three times stronger than normal – will pin the Bezos brothers and their guests into their seats.
Then the rocket booster will separate from the passenger capsule and fall back to Earth.
Bezos and his companions will be able to watch out their windows as the booster falls away. Their capsule will continue rising past the Kármán line – an imaginary boundary 62 miles (100 kilometres) above sea level, where space begins.
The rocket booster will plummet through the atmosphere, then fire its engines to lower itself onto a concrete landing pad.
Blue Origin plans to restore the New Shepard boosters to reuse them in future flights. Meanwhile, back in space, Bezos and his companions will be weightless for about three minutes.
They can unbuckle and drift around the spacious cabin, gazing at Earth below them and the blackness of space behind them. The capsule features the world’s largest spaceship windows, according to Blue Origin.
The passengers won’t be responsible for operating the spacecraft, and might not even wear spacesuits – they’ll simply be free to enjoy the views
The entire flight is automated, so there are no pilots. Blue Origin’s website indicates that New Shepard passengers will wear only a jumpsuit – not a pressurised spacesuit and helmet.
That’s quite different from Nasa’s newest spaceship for astronauts: SpaceX’s Crew Dragon.
New Shepard is designed for a tourist experience, with views and comfort among the top priorities.
Crew Dragon, on the other hand, is made for professional astronauts who monitor and control the spaceship. Dragon passengers sit face to face with a set of screens. Nasa requires astronauts to wear spacesuits during launch and landing.
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After three minutes in space, Bezos and his companions must buckle up for a high-speed plummet home
The friction from a space capsule that’s falling through Earth’s atmosphere can heat the surrounding plasma material to 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,927 degrees Celsius). So the capsule’s heat shield – a panel of heat-resistant material at the bottom – must protect the passengers inside. Even so, they’ll likely be in for a bumpy ride.
A few minutes later, the capsule should release three parachutes to brake its fall and lower it to a gentle landing in the Texas desert.
The passengers could feel a significant jerk as the parachutes balloon into the air.
If anything goes wrong during landing, the capsule’s seats are designed to absorb some of the impact to protect the passengers. The capsule also has a crushable “bumper” section on the bottom.
A recovery team will be waiting to help the passengers as they climb out and the entire journey will last just 11 minutes.
If the flight succeeds, Bezos could become the first person to fly to space aboard his own company’s rocket
However, a report last week from Douglas Messier, who runs the space blog Parabolic Arc, indicated that Richard Branson may try to beat Bezos to space by flying to the Kármán line on a Virgin Galactic space plane over July 4 weekend. The report is unconfirmed, but the company hasn’t denied it.
- Jeff Bezos, his brother Mark and two mystery guests will be blasting off on Blue Origin’s first passenger launch on July 20 – after one buyer bid US$28 million
- But will Richard Branson beat them to the edge of space, with rumours of a Virgin Galactic launch on July 4?