Jeff Bezos Achieves Dream Of Going To Space, Taking Brother Mark Bezos & Wally Funk With Him
— Blue Origin (@blueorigin) July 20, 2021
The four passengers, now astronauts, boarded New Shepherd around 8:30 a.m., walking across the adjacent tower’s bridge in their matching blue flight suits. The launch, which was webcast live, took place around 45 minutes later, after all the necessary checks from “com central.” The Amazon founder, his brother Mark Bezos, special guest Wally Funk, and Blue Origin’s first-paying customer Oliver Daemon, blasted off in a billowing dust cloud at 9:15 a.m.
A thin strip of pink fire and exhaust followed the autonomous rocket, cooling to blue during the main engine cutoff. At that point, the fire stopped, and the passengers could float inside the capsule at zero-G. For the majority of the 10-minute space trip, the rocket was nothing more than a blurry white spot. Fans in the comment section, many of whom wanted to see Funk’s reaction, made their disappointment known.
The 82-year-old not only became the oldest person in space, but she is also a member of what is known as the Mercury 13, a group of women who passed the same physiological testing as male astronauts selected for Project Mercury (1958-1963), but were denied because of their gender. Funk’s journey to space was the culmination of a 60-year-long dream, an experience she had been excluded from for decades.
Fortunately, the patchy recordings inside the capsule gave a hint at the crew’s excitement, and Earth’s oldest astronaut could be heard cheering loudly after they passed above the Kármán line, the internationally-recognized barrier of space.
The crew could float around the capsule for a couple of moments of weightlessness but were given a one-minute warning about four minutes after takeoff. They began their descent at six minutes, while com central checked that every passenger was buckled in their seat. Just over a minute later, the sonic boom echoed as the engines relit and the booster touched down on the landing pad.
The crew capsule, which had detached from the booster earlier in the flight, floated to the ground with the help of three blue parachutes and skirt jets. The newly-minted astronauts touched down approximately ten and a half minutes after takeoff to loud cheers on all fronts.
“Best day ever,” Bezos announced right after landing.
The billionaire space race, as some have called it, has received more fervent criticism over the last few weeks as Bezos and Branson competed for the top spot in the space tourism market. Blue Origin, however, claims to be different.
At the beginning of their webcast, the company painted the liftoff as the first step in a future among the stars, stating that space tourism, the brief trips above the Kármán line, is simply practice for longer journeys. Bezos’ narration gave a romantic picture of the future.
“When our descendants look to the stars, perhaps from a rocky moon or colonies floating in open space, they’ll remember this time,” Bezos said. “When they reflect on where it started, they’ll remember this place.”
Later, during the post-landing press conference, when referring to space tourism and eventual long-term travel, the Blue Origin founder said, “We need to do that to solve the problems here on Earth.”