Five things the Blue Origin launch taught us about the new space race
From phallic rockets to science and scrutiny — and where Bezos’ trip to space leaves Branson and Musk
On Tuesday 20th July 2021, Jeff Bezos became a member of one of the galaxy’s most exclusive clubs: he became only the second tech billionaire to travel into space under his own steam, joining Richard Branson who (as we previously reported) flew 53 miles above the earth in his Virgin Galactic shuttle SpaceShip Two Unity 22 on 11 July.
Now Bezos, 57, has achieved what he called his “childhood dream” after spending 11 minutes in space after the first successful launch of his spaceflight company Blue Origin. Bezos’ ship, the New Shepherd, successfully surpassed the Karman Line, reaching a height of 66.5 miles above earth – eclipsing Branson’s own journey by over 12 miles.
Bezos was joined by his brother Mark, 18-year-old Oliver Daemen and 82-year-old aerospace pioneer Wally Funk. Daemen and Funk have now become the youngest and oldest person to ever travel to space, respectively.
Daemen replaced an anonymous person who had paid £20.6 million for a seat on the flight but cancelled at short notice due to “scheduling conflicts.”
Funk has had a lifelong involvement with the space programme but until this week had never travelled there after being turned down by NASA in the 1970s. Despite this, as part of the (un-government affiliated) 1961 ‘Mercury 13’ training programme she set a record after enduring a sensory deprivation tank without hallucinating for 10 hours and 35 minutes.
Doubtless, the flight was a life-changing experience for all involved. “I know it’s going to change me and I’m excited to find out how,” Mr Bezos had told CNN before the flight.
Exactly what this means for the future of space travel remains to be seen. Here are our best guesses.