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25 July 2021


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Bezos and crewmates gear up for inaugural Blue Origin space flight

BI Desk || BusinessInsider

Published: 16:35, 19 July 2021  
Bezos and crewmates gear up for inaugural Blue Origin space flight

Picture : collected

Billionaire American businessman Jeff Bezos and his three crewmates are prepared for his company Blue Origin’s inaugural flight to the edge of space is planned for Tuesday.

The suborbital launch from a site in the high desert plains of West Texas marks a crucial test for Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft, a 60-foot-tall (18.3 meters) and fully autonomous rocket-and-capsule combo that is central to plans by Bezos to tap a potentially lucrative space tourism market, reports The Indian Express.

The planned 11-minute trip from the company’s Launch Site One facility is set to include the oldest person ever to go to space – 82-year-old trailblazing female aviator Wally Funk – and the youngest – 18-year-old physics student Oliver Daemen here.

Joining them for Blue Origin’s launch will be Bezos, the founder and current executive chairman here of Amazon.com Inc, and his brother Mark Bezos.

The mission here would represent the world’s first unpiloted flight to space with an all-civilian crew. Blue Origin will have none of its staff astronauts here or trained personnel onboard.

New Shepard is due to launch nine days after rival Richard Branson’s space tourism company, Virgin Galactic, successfully carried out a suborbital flight here from New Mexico with the British billionaire inside its rocket plane.

Blue Origin’s training program, according to the company, includes safety briefings, a simulation of the spaceflight, a review of the rocket and its operations, and instruction on how to float around the craft’s cabin after the capsule sheds Earth’s gravity.

The training “will help you feel comfortable and prepared for spaceflight and your responsibilities as an astronaut,” Blue Origin said in the material describing the sessions.

New Shepard, which cannot be piloted from inside the spacecraft, is named for Alan Shepard, who in 1961 became the first American in space during a suborbital flight as part of NASA’s pioneering Mercury programme.

New Shepard, like Virgin Galactic’s flight, will not enter into orbit around Earth, but will take the crew some 62 miles up (100 km) before the capsule returns by parachute. Virgin Galactic’s flight reached 53 miles (86 km) above Earth.

Billionaire businessman Elon Musk’s space transportation company, SpaceX, is pledging to go even higher in September, sending an all-civilian crew for a several-day orbital flight aboard its Crew Dragon capsule.

Illustrating tensions in the high-stakes “billionaire space race,” Blue Origin has described Virgin Galactic as falling short of the 62-mile-high-mark (100 km) – called the Kármán line – set by an international aeronautics body as defining the boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and space.

The US space agency NASA and the US Air Force both define an astronaut as anyone who has flown higher than 50 miles (80 km), as Branson achieved with his flight.

IBBL