Up, up, and away —
Jeff Bezos’ rocket co. targets July 20 for its first crewed launch.
On Wednesday, Blue Origin officially announced that its first crewed flight to space is targeted for July 20, suggesting that its extended period of test flights is finally coming to an end. Rather than simply placing a seat on sale, however, the company announced it will auction one off, with the proceeds going to the company’s charity.
New Shepard flights will take passengers above much of the atmosphere and into space, then allow them an extended period of apparent weightlessness as the capsule free-falls back to Earth. The capsule itself is relatively spacious and is equipped with large windows and cushy-looking seats, which are clearly meant to make flight a pleasant experience. The free fall is followed by a parachute-assisted landing, with the booster performing a powered landing separately.
If that sounds like a compelling experience to you, your first chance to get in on it is via an auction for a single seat on its first crewed flight. You can get the process started now by submitting a bid at the Blue Origin website. On May 19, the highest bids will be unsealed, and any further online bidding will have to exceed an existing bid. On June 12, the auction will wrap up with live online bidding.
Proceeds from the auction will go to Blue Origin’s Club for the Future, a charity meant to encourage students to pursue science, technology, engineering, and math—and to encourage students to put those skills to use in space exploration. One of the charity’s main activities so far has been to send postcards from students to space on Blue Origin rockets, and its educational activities include a lesson plan in “space marketing.” So it’s not clear how distinct from the company this effort really is.
In any case, the auction is just for a single seat, which could leave the other five open for customers who make a more traditional reservation. But so far, Blue Origin hasn’t said anything about what the prices for those seats will be.
Blue Origin’s main competitor for suborbital flights is currently Virgin Galactic, which has not committed to a date for its flight but has provided a hint about pricing: at least $250,000, though how much more is unclear. SpaceX is planning an orbital commercial flight for late this year, with the passengers raising money for an unaffiliated hospital. SpaceX’s pricing also remains undisclosed.
So, while this aspect of commercial spaceflight appears to be moving quickly, the price to entry remains a large question mark.
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