It’s official. Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin will send its first crew to space on July 20. The company will be flying on its space tourism rocket named New Shepard. The passengers will include company personnel, astronauts, and one commercial passenger. The commercial passenger will be chosen after an online auction.
"On July 20th, #NewShepard will fly its first astronaut crew to space. We are offering one seat on this first flight to the winning bidder of an online auction. Anyone can place an opening bid by going to http://BlueOrigin.com. #GradatimFerociter," Blue Origin tweeted.
Bezos’ space venture had announced last month about the public auction for the seat in the spacecraft. "It's time. You can buy the very first seat on #NewShepard. Sign up to learn how at http://blueorigin.com. Details coming May 5th. #GradatimFerociter," the post read.
A closed online auction will run until May 19 and bids are expected to reach $50,000. There will be a $10,000 deposit for higher bids. The company will also require additional identification information for the bid. The funds raised will go to its foundation, which promotes science and technology education.
New Shepard's flights will be sub-orbital. The shuttle is designed to take passengers on a straight up-and-down trip that goes above 100 km in altitude. The 100-km mark, also known as the Karman Line, has been designated by an international agreement as the starting point of space.
Ariane Cornell, Blue Origin's director of astronaut sales, said, "Only 569 people have ever been over the Karman Line. With our New Shepard vehicle, we're about to change that and change it dramatically."
Blue Origin's announcement is the latest update in space tourism. Billionaire Elon Musk's SpaceX is expected to launch SpaceX Dragonship in autumn with an all-civilian crew aboard. The Dragonship will go orbital and will stay up for several days.
New Shepard can carry six people on a ride past the edge of space, with the capsules on previous test flights reaching an altitude of more than 340,000 feet.
During the flight, the booster unit lifts the pressurised passenger vessel to 76 km, where the units then separate. Momentum then carries the capsule upwards into space before dropping back down to the ground with the aid of three parachutes. The booster also touches down in a controlled manner, making a propulsive landing on a designated concrete pad.
Blue Origin is hoping that the New Shepard experience will prove to be a big draw. The capsule has massive windows to give passengers a spectacular view, as they spend a few minutes in zero gravity before returning to Earth.
The company expects to earn around $200,000 per seat, at least initially. "This is a nascent market," said Ariane Cornell. "We're opening the doors and look forward to seeing what the market says."
Blue Origin's announcement was timed to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the first spaceflight made by an American astronaut -- Alan Shepard, in whose honour the new vehicle is named.
Alan Shepard conducted a 15-minute sub-orbital flight in his Project Mercury Freedom-7 capsule on May 5, 1961. July 20, the date of the first flight, will also mark the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
(Edited by : Shoma)