On July 20, the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, Jeff Bezos, his brother Mark Bezos, an unknown passenger and the highest bidder at an auction will be taking off toward the stars. The spacecraft New Shepherd, which can hold up to six people and flies autonomously, will take the four passengers to the barrier of the earth’s atmosphere. It will briefly break into the vacuum of space, allowing the group to float in zero gravity for about three minutes before returning to earth.

Besos’ aerospace company Blue Origin, which he founded in 2000 and still owns, is responsible for the commercial space flight, the first of its kind. Details have yet to be announced on when New Shepherd will become available to the public. One thing is certain though; space tourism is within grasp, at least for a select few.

The auction for a seat on the first flight started at $4.8 million but reached over $20 million within a matter of minutes. All of the proceeds from the auction will be donated to Blue Origin’s nonprofit Club for the Future, which encourages children to pursue STEM careers. The winning bidder’s name, along with the fourth unknown passenger’s, has yet to be announced.

New Shepherd, which lands and takes off vertically, has undergone a number of successful test runs, including one at Blue Origin’s facility in Texas. Besos’, his brother and the other two passengers will be the first humans to take flight on the spacecraft.

If all goes well, they will travel up over 340,000 feet. The windows are large so that customers will have a wide view as they experience the journey into space. Since both the rocket and capsule are reusable, the New Shepherd will likely see more travelers after its maiden voyage.

Bezos is not the first billionaire to attempt a commercial space flight venture. Both Elon Musk and Richard Branson are working on their own versions of space travel for profit. Musk is working on a longer stay outside of the Earth’s atmosphere than Bezos; future passengers will spend several days in space. Meanwhile, Branson is competing directly with Bezos for short flights to the edge of space. However, Branson’s company Virgin Galactic does not produce autonomous aerospace technology like Bezos’ but instead relies on pilots to make the trip. His spacecraft will be ready for commercial liftoff in 2022.

 

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