A company formed by Jeff Bezos over two decades ago, Blue Origin is taking a huge step on July 20 by sending the world’s first unpiloted flight to space, that too with an all-civilian crew. Bezos will be joined by his brother Mark, 82-year-old former pilot Wally Funk and an 18-year-old teen. The journey interests many as the passengers include the oldest person and the youngest to travel into space.
Sources say this will propel Bezos at par with his rival Richard Branson, who recently flew to space in his Virgin Galactic’s rocket plane.
“People keep asking if I am nervous. I am not nervous, I am excited. I am curious. I want to know what we are going to learn,” said Bezos to a news program. “We have been training. This vehicle is ready. This crew is ready. This team is amazing. We just feel really good about it,” he added.
The four passengers will be taken beyond the Karman Line. This is roughly 100 kilometres above Earth and they will be able to see the planet before parachuting back to the surface. The New Shepard, named after Mercury astronaut Alan Shepard, the first American to go to space, is a 60-foot-tall (18.3 meters), and fully autonomous reusable rocket-and-capsule combo. The company claims that the spacecraft has a pressurised capsule with the ‘largest windows’, which is made to create a wholesome view of the planet from space.
The launch is set for around 8 am CDT (1300 GMT) from Blue Origin’s Launch Site One facility, nearly 32km outside Van Horn, a rural town in Texas.
There will not be any trained astronauts navigating the spacecraft. However, all safety measures have been taken. The four crewmates got safety briefings, a review of the rocket and its operations, and instructions on how to float around the craft’s cabin after the capsule escapes Earth’s gravity. “The training will help you feel comfortable and prepared for spaceflight and your responsibilities as an astronaut,” says a statement released by Blue origin. Flight Director Steve Lanius said, “We are not currently working on any open issues and New Shepard is ready to fly.”
Bezos and his crewmates had started the 14-hour program on Sunday and this will be an ‘experience of the flight of a lifetime’, Ariane Cornell, director of astronaut sales at Blue Origin, said.
Chief Executive Officer of Blue Origin, Bob Smith said that the company’s next flight would likely be at the end of September or early October. He added that the ‘willingness to pay continues to be quite high’ for people interested in future flights.
A successful launch and landing of the New Shepard spacecraft will boost the confidence of those who have depended on SpaceX so far.
All eyes are now on Bezos to know what future possibilities this venture would let out.