Jeff Bezos and three other passengers took flight with his space company Blue Origin on Tuesday morning, launching high above West Texas.
Why it matters: It's Blue Origin's first human flight and a major technical milestone for the company as it focuses on bringing suborbital spaceflight to more people in the future.
What's happening: The company's New Shepard capsule and rocket took flight at 9:11 a.m. ET, lofting the capsule high above the desert and bringing the crew about 62 miles into the air before descending back to Earth under parachutes.
- Bezos was joined by his brother Mark, the company's first paying customer 18-year-old Oliver Daemen, and pioneering aviator Wally Funk, one of the women that passed the Mercury astronaut tests in the 1960s.
- “It’s dark up here,” Funk was heard saying on the flight webcast before the crew came back down to Earth. “You have a very happy crew up here, I want you to know," Bezos said to mission control.
- Funk is now the oldest person ever to fly to space and Daemen is the youngest.
How it works: The New Shepard is designed to autonomously send its passengers on a ride to space without the need for a pilot within the craft.
- "We set out to design this vehicle for anybody — not professional astronauts — anybody with very little training, and that is a very hard problem," Gary Lai, the senior director of the New Shepard design team, said during the launch webcast. "And yes, we have succeeded and I would put my own kids on that vehicle."
The big picture: It's been a pretty wild suborbital summer.Bezos' flight comes after Richard Branson flew to suborbital space with his own company, Virgin Galactic.
- The two companies are now working to start flying more paying customers to space and back again.
- Yes, but: It's not clear how much of a market there is for these kinds of flights, and the two companies haven't yet revealed how much their tickets will cost for customers interested in purchasing.