Last century’s space race was a battle between superpowers trying to be the first to go higher and farther. In comparison, today’s commercial space travel race is being fought between companies owned by some of the richest individuals on Earth. One of them, Jeff Bezos, just announced he’s willing to risk more than his money: He’s going to space. And, if you’ve got the money, so could you.
Until recently, the clear leader in the billionaire space race was Elon Musk. His company SpaceX has become NASA’s space taxi service of choice, ferrying astronauts and cargo to the International Space Station. With NASA now set on returning to the moon, SpaceX also won the $2.9 million lunar lander contract. Meanwhile, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic has yet to reach the Kármán line, the internationally recognized boundary of space at about 62 miles above Earth. And while the launch vehicle built by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin had gotten to “space,” it hadn’t taken a crew with it.
A Space Program for Billionaires
Now, Jeff Bezos is putting his money and mortality where his mouth is with the announcement he’s going to be on the New Shepard’s very first crewed flight. Named after NASA astronaut Alan Shepard, the launch vehicle is set to take flight on July 20. Not coincidentally, that’s also the 52nd anniversary of the first moon landing. Bezos will take his flight just two weeks after leaving his position of CEO at Amazon.
“To see the Earth from space, it changes you. It changes your relationship with this planet, with humanity,” Bezos said in an Instagram post announcing the trip. In the same post, Bezos revealed he invited his younger brother, Mark, to be on the flight with him.
Of course, as with the Soviet Union and the United States, the race isn’t always friendly. When Bezos’ Blue Origin protested SpaceX’s lunar lander contract, Musk tweeted, “Can’t get it up (to orbit) lol”. Musk has yet to comment on Bezos’ most recent announcement.
In addition to the Bezos brothers, one seat on the New Shepard will go to the winner of an online auction. Proceeds from the auction will go to Club for the Future, Blue Origin’s foundation. The current high bid is $3.8 million, so if you’d like to go to space with Jeff Bezos, you have to beat that. Of course, that amount is pocket change to Musk and Branson, but no word on whether they’re interested in bidding.
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