Jeff Bezos all set to blast off into space
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In the battle of the billionaire’s race to space, Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, is set to make his mission into space on Tuesday, just a few days after Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson crossed the final frontier.
Bezos will be accompanied by three other passengers aboard his aerospace company Blue Origin’s New Shepherd rocket. This will be the company's first ever crewed flight.
"We’re ready. The vehicle is ready," the Amazon founder said. "This team is amazing. I feel very good about it and I think my fellow crewmates feel good about it too."
Bezos’ brother, Mark, will be aboard the flight, as well as 18-year-old Oliver Daemen, who will be replacing the anonymous winner of a live auction who bid US$28 million for the flight, and 82-year-old "Mercury 13" aerospace pioneer, Wally Funk.
Mark says the trip is a “realisation of a life-long dream for his brother.”
Although Blue Origin is trailing in the race, their sights are set higher. Blue Origin’s New Shepherd spacecraft will ascend to a higher altitude compared to Virgin’s spaceplane, and their future ambitions continue to expand.
Founded in 2000 with the aim of one day building floating space colonies that have its own artificial gravity and where millions of people live and work, today the company is developing a heavy-lift orbital rocket called New Glenn and also a Moon lander it is hoping to contract to NASA under the Artemis program.
“They've had 15 successful New Shepard uncrewed flights and we've been waiting years to see when they're going to start flying people," Laura Forczyk, founder of space consulting firm Astralytical, told AFP.
New Shepard will lift off at 8:00 am Central Time (13:00 GMT) on Tuesday 20 July from a remote facility in the west Texas desert called Launch Site One.
After lift-off, New Shepard will accelerate towards space at speeds exceeding Mach 3 using a liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen engine with no carbon emissions.
The capsule will soon separate from its booster, and the astronauts unbuckle and begin to experience weightlessness.
The crew will spend a few minutes beyond the Karman line - the internationally recognised boundary between Earth's atmosphere and space, at 100 kilometresabove earth, as the spacecraft peaks at 106 kilometres high.
The booster returns autonomously to a landing pad just north of its launch site, while the capsule freefalls back to Earth before deploying three giant parachutes, and finally a thruster, to land gently in the desert.