The richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos is flying to space Tuesday aboard the Blue Origin’s suborbital rocket and he won’t be going alone as he and other three passengers such as his 82-year-old brother Mark, an aviation icon Wally Funk and an 18-year-old Dutch high school grad Oliver Daemen will go on the short trip.
The mission is dubbed the NS-16 and it’s going to be the first time Blue Origin will be sending humans to space and Jeff Bezos will therefore become the 2nd billionaire to fly a rocket that he has helped fund. British billionaire Richard Branson flew aboard the Virgin Galactic rocket plane just this past week in a memorable trip to the outer layer of the Earth’s stratosphere.
Daemen will be the youngest person to fly to space and Funk, a lively firebrand aviator who trained as an astronaut in the ‘60s but never made it to space, will be the oldest in what seems to be a record-making occasion for all these individuals.
Jeff Bezos will lift off at 9AM ET
New Shepard’s liftoff is on track for 9AM ET. Some early Tuesday morning storms are predicted to clear up before then, the company said on Sunday. The whole mission should last about 10 minutes.
“The launch crew is ready, the vehicle is ready, the crew is ready, and the flight director is ready,” according to Blue Origin’s NS16 flight director Steve Lanius in a statement to reporters on Sunday.
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The New Shepard will take off from Blue Origin’s rocket facilities in Van Horn which is a remote town in the western desert of Texas and the crewed capsule will detach from the New Shepard booster at an altitude of about 62 miles in which case it will spend a few minutes in the weightlessness of microgravity and help the crew see the curvature of the planet.
By about that time, the rocket booster will have landed vertically not far from where it launched. The crew capsule will return minutes later under a set of parachutes.
In case you’re wondering who Daemen is, he’s the son of Joes Demen who is a Dutch CEO and founder of a private equity firm in the Netherlands who got the New Shepard auction seat for US$28 million last month. He decided to give up his seat for his son because he had a conflicting schedule with the time of the flight and so his son Oliver Daemen took his place.
For other launch companies like SpaceX and Virgin Galactic, a rocket’s first crewed launch usually includes heavily trained test pilots to monitor the crew cabin and stand ready if things go awry. But Blue Origin decided to throw its founder Bezos and its first paying customer, Daemen, on board because its New Shepard crew capsule is fully autonomous, requiring no input from humans during the mission.
“We know the vehicle is safe. If the vehicle is not safe for me, it’s not safe for anyone,” Bezos told CNN in an interview Monday morning. Blue Origin wouldn’t have had any use for test pilots on its crew capsule, the company’s CEO Bob Smith said. “We didn’t see any value, quite honestly, from doing things step-wise in that approach … Seeing that this is an autonomous vehicle, there’s really nothing for a crew member to go do.” He added that there were some evaluations that Blue Origin has tasked some of the passengers to undertake during the flight (it’s unclear which passengers, though).
The crewed flight will be streamed on YouTube starting at 7:30 AM ET on Tuesday ahead of the liftoff posted on its website. Also, you can follow Jeff Bezos on his IG as the billionaire has been uploading all kinds of pre-launch video reels with him and the crew.
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