Blue Origin will launch its first crewed mission on its New Shepard rocket July 20 to fly its billionaire founder Jeff Bezos and three other passengers to suborbital space and back. Liftoff is set for 9 a.m. EDT (1300 GMT) from Blue Origin’s Launch Site One in West Texas and will launch Bezos, his brother Mark Bezos, Mercury 13 and aviation pioneer Wally Funk and 18-year-old Oliver Daemon.
Near a small town in the West Texas desert, a quartet led by the world’s richest person is preparing for a launch Tuesday on a historic flight to the edge of space. Blue Origin, the space company founded by Amazon executive chairman Jeff Bezos in 2000, has been testing prototypes of its New Shepard rocket and capsule for more than a decade. After 15 successful test flights without people on board, also planning to be aboard for the expected 11-minute flight. The crew are to float in microgravity for a couple minutes and then return to the grounds of the company’s private facility in Texas. Bezos’ company is just one of many of a 21st-century generation of ventures in a new space race — one driven primarily by investors, rather than solely by superpower governments.
Several other milestones may be set on the trip. Joining Bezos will be one passenger who stands to become the oldest person to reach space and another who would be the youngest. Wally Funk, 82, is a former test pilot who was one of the Mercury 13 women who underwent training in the 1960s to demonstrate that women could meet NASA’s standards for its astronaut corps. At 18, the Dutch teenager Oliver Daemen could become the youngest astronaut. Rounding out the four-person crew is Bezos’ brother, Mark.