Jeff Bezos goes to space

By Jackie Wattles, Aditi Sangal, Melissa Macaya, Melissa Mahtani, Meg Wagner and Adrienne Vogt, CNN

Updated 2024 GMT (0424 HKT) July 20, 2021
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9:50 a.m. ET, July 20, 2021

Blue Origin wants to know if you'd like to buy a ticket to space — so how much will they cost?

From CNN's Jackie Wattles

Michael Craft Photography/Blue Origin
Michael Craft Photography/Blue Origin

After Jeff Bezos and crew completed their spaceflight, Blue Origin announced it is open for ticket sales. Those interested in flying on a future Blue Origin flight were asked to send the company an email — but they did not divulge how much a ticket will cost.

Unlike its chief competitor, Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin has not sold tickets to the general public yet, nor has it said how much it will sell seats for.

So far, the only price point made public was the $28 million that the as-yet-unnamed auction winner put up. But they mysteriously canceled on the richest man in the world on his rocket, saying only that they had a scheduling conflict, according to Blue Origin.

That person will fly on a later flight, possibly sometime this year as Blue Origin says it will do up to two additional crewed missions in 2021 that it's already in the process of booking.

We also know that Oliver Daemen's — the 18-year-old who is flying in the auction winner's place — dad was an auction participant and was given the option to purchase a ticket after the winner bowed out of today's flight. But Blue Origin has stayed strictly mum about how much money was exchanged.

"We are selling tickets. Obviously, the first ticket was done via auction but we are chatting with our customers that participated in that auction. But if anybody's interested, send us an email — astronauts@blueorigin.com — and we'll have a conversation, because we want to get people up to space and get them up there soon," Blue Origin's head of sales, Ariane Cornell, told CNN Business' Rachel Crane.

The bottom line: We still have no idea how much most people have paid — nor are willing to pay — for the chance to spend 11 minutes aboard Blue Origin's New Shepherd rocket as it blasts into space.

But the company says the auction did give a strong indication that there are plenty of people anxious to go: 7,600 people from 159 countries registered to bid.

9:38 a.m. ET, July 20, 2021

Blue Origin’s ultimate goal: Colonizing space

From CNN's Jackie Wattles

New Shepard NS-14 lifting off from Launch Site One in West Texas during a test flight on January 14, 2021.
New Shepard NS-14 lifting off from Launch Site One in West Texas during a test flight on January 14, 2021. Blue Origin

There's been plenty of blowback about billionaires in space. Bezos, the world's richest man, has funded the company almost solely out of his own pocket. And the way things in the commercial space industry are shaking out has critics concerned that the ultra-wealthy view outer space as their own personal escape hatch.

Still, Blue Origin and other billionaire-backed space companies put out a lot of talk about their technologies paving the way toward a "democratization" of space in which everyday people — not just government-trained astronauts — get to experience the thrill of spaceflight. These early suborbital space tourism flights are prohibitively expensive to the vast majority of people, and that's not expected to change anytime soon.

Blue Origin, however, describes its long-term vision as one of spacefaring colonization and benevolence:

Blue Origin was founded by Jeff Bezos with the vision of enabling a future where millions of people are living and working in space to benefit Earth. To preserve Earth, Blue Origin believes that humanity will need to expand, explore, find new energy and material resources, and move industries that stress Earth into space.  Blue Origin is working on this today by developing partially and fully reusable launch vehicles that are safe, low cost, and serve the needs of all civil, commercial and defense customers. 

It's still early days, of course. The New Shepard rocket and capsule system is suborbital, meaning it doesn't drum up nearly enough energy to remain in space for more than a couple of minutes. But the company is working on a much larger rocket for that purpose — called New Glenn — and a lunar lander that it hopes will be used to support NASA missions.

Bezos has also talked in the past about O'Neill colonies, a concept for spinning space stations that can mimic Earthlike gravity for passengers, as a possible habitat for future space dwellers.

Who will own the space stations? And will passengers be employees or tourists? Will space travel, if necessary to save humanity, only be available to those who can afford to pay? And is Bezos' time and money better spent trying to solve Earthly problems rather than seeking to escape them?

We don't know. There are plenty of unanswered questions and raging debates.

CNN's Rachel Crane asked Bezos about the pushback on Monday.

"They are largely right," Bezos said of critics who say billionaires should focus their energy — and money — on issues closer to home. "We have to do both. We have lots of problems here and now on Earth and we need to work on those, and we always need to look to the future. We've always done that as a species, as a civilization."

9:50 a.m. ET, July 20, 2021

The crew celebrated its successful spaceflight with champagne

The crew popped a bottle of champagne to celebrate their successful trip to space with the New Shepard, Blue Origin's rocket.

Jeff Bezos could be heard saying inside the capsule that it was the "best day ever" during his astronaut status check response.

WATCH THE MOMENT:

9:32 a.m. ET, July 20, 2021

Jeff Bezos: "Best day ever"

Blue Origin
Blue Origin

After landing safely back to Earth, Jeff Bezos could be heard saying inside the capsule that it was the "best day ever" in his astronaut status check response.

He said to 82-year-old pilot Wally Funk that the trip was "incredible," and she responded "it was!"

Jeff Bezos' brother, Mark Bezos, said "I'm unbelievably good" after landing.

9:36 a.m. ET, July 20, 2021

The crew is back on Earth and out of the capsule

After completing procedural status checks, the crew aboard the New Shepard stepped out of the just-landed capsule.

On board today's flight were Jeff Bezos, his brother Mark Bezos, pilot Wally Funk and 18-year-old Oliver Daemen.

Bezos came out of the capsule wearing his cowboy hat.

All crew members were greeted by their family members, who were standing next to the capsule, waiting for the gate to be opened.

WATCH:

9:34 a.m. ET, July 20, 2021

Blue Origin congratulates first astronaut crew

From CNN's Alyssa Kraus

Jeff Bezos and crew have officially landed after a successful flight to space, making these four members the first astronauts aboard a Blue Origin spacecraft.

"This first astronaut crew wrote themselves into the history books of space, opening the door through which many after will pass," Blue Origin tweeted.

9:32 a.m. ET, July 20, 2021

And we have touchdown

Blue Origin
Blue Origin

The crew capsule just made its landing, kicking up a large cloud of desert dust. 

Before hitting the ground, the capsule uses what’s called a “retrothrust system,” which creates an air cushion under the gum-drop-shaped vehicle to further cushion to blow of landing. What’s more, each of the passengers’ seats also sit on top of scissor-like shock absorption mechanisms.  

On the livestream of the launch, an expert described it as a "soft touchdown," and "like sitting in a chair."

 WATCH:

9:28 a.m. ET, July 20, 2021

This is what the ride to space felt like for passengers, according to a former astronaut

From CNN's Elise Hammond

Retired Col. Chris Hadfield, a former astronaut, said passengers on the Blue Origin flight felt like a "big gorilla has been jumping on you and just threw you off a cliff" as the capsule rocketed into space to weightlessness.

"It's the ultimate dragster," he told CNN. "They're going to be shaking. Their back teeth are going to rattle."

He said the rocket will have to punch its way through the atmosphere so there will be a "whole bunch of vibration."

Then "there will be this instantaneous wham – and like magic, some big gorilla has been jumping on you and just threw you off a cliff, and suddenly you're weightless. They're all just about to experience that," he said.

He said these three minutes of weightlessness will go by very quickly.

"I think the real important thing is to just live it. Absolutely absorb, become hyper aware. Focus on what's going on around you," he said. "The difference of weightlessness and the amazing view out the window. You have to be a sponge, a human sponge, absorbing the magical experience."

9:21 a.m. ET, July 20, 2021

Touchdown for the booster rocket

The New Shepard rocket booster has made touchdown! 

The rocket booster created a sonic boom before returning to the ground in its upright position, using little fins to keep itself upright and oriented. Some breaks near the top of the rocket are also helping it slow down. 

About 3,000 feet above the ground the engine will relight, slowing it down to manageable speeds just before it hits terra firma.

Jeff Bezos and his fellow fliers, meanwhile, are still making their way back toward the ground.