Tag Archives: Jeff Bezos

Jeff Bezos reaches space, makes it back in one piece

Jeff Bezos victorious high five after safely landing on Earth from his flight into the edge of space. Credit: YouTube capture.

On Tuesday, shortly after 9 a.m. ET, Jeff Bezos launched on an excursion to the edge of space on Blue Origin’s New Shepard, a reusable suborbital rocket. Bezos, the world’s richest person, is the second billionaire to make it into space this month, after Richard Branson’s pioneering space tourism flight aboard his Virgin Galactic spaceplane.

Although Bezos was one-upped by Branson who stole the start of the ‘billionaire space race’, today’s 11-minute flight claims its own fair share of world firsts. The suborbital flight made it past the Kármán Line, the internationally-recognized boundary of space, at nearly 62 miles (100 km) above Earth’s surface, whereas Virgin Galactic only reached 57 miles (91 km) altitude. So, technically, some argue, Bezos was the only one to make it into space out of the two.

“Only 4% of the world recognizes a lower limit of 80 km or 50 miles as the beginning of space,” Blue Origin tweeted ahead of Branson’s flight. “New Shepard flies above both boundaries. One of the many benefits of flying with Blue Origin.”

Joining Jeff was his younger brother, Mark Bezos, 82-year-old pioneering female aviator Wally Funk, now officially the world’s oldest astronaut, and Oliver Daemen, an 18-year-old Dutch physics student who is also the world’s youngest astronaut. The flight took place on the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Bezos made it in space. Sort of

Today’s New Shepard crew, from left to right: Oliver Daemen, Wally Funk, Jeff Bezos, and Mark Bezos. Credit: CBS News.

Both Bezos and Branson only spent moments in the weightlessness of microgravity. From launch to touch down, the entire trip only took 11 nerve-wracking minutes. That’s a far cry from the conventional picture of outer space travelm with astronauts floating in space as they circle Earth.

New Shepard, a vertical take-off and landing space vehicle, reached 2,300 mph (3,700 km/h), or about three times the speed of sound. Once the rocket ran out of fuel, the capsule carrying the crew separated and briefly continued its journey upwards while the booster safely landed on a platform. After a brief couple of minutes of weightlessness, the capsule deployed a plume of parachutes to slowly descend towards the ground. There was no pilot onboard as the Blue Origin capsule is operated by a fully automated flight system.

“Congratulations to all of Team Blue past and present on reaching this historic moment in spaceflight history,” tweeted Bezos’ space tourism company, Blue Origin. “This first astronaut crew wrote themselves into the history books of space, opening the door through which many after will pass.” 

Bezos officially stepped down as Amazon CEO this month. This will leave him with ample time to devote to Blue Origin, the private space flight company he founded in 2000 in which he funneled billions of his own money.

The luxurious and spacious interior of the Blue Origin capsule. Each seat has its own dedicated window from which they can observe Earth from space. Credit: Blue Origin.

Thanks to massive advances in space flight, particularly in terms of reusability, Blue Origin aims to become a major player in the private space industry, with its eye on overtaking Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

The rivalry between the two companies has extended to a personal level, with the billionaires often ridiculing each other’s efforts. Well, to be fair, it’s mostly Musk who’s doing all the trolling. Musk has previously called Bezos’ Blue Origin a “copycat,” and made fun of the company’s proposed lunar lander Blue Moon comparing it to “blue balls.”

This was New Shepard’s 16th flight and the first to include people, but more are soon to follow. Blue Origin are two more scheduled flights this year alone. Although it’s not clear how much Blue Origin plans to charge for a seat, however, we do know that Virgin Galactic aims to sell tickets for around $250,000 a pop. Mush himself has reportedly put down a $10,000 deposit for a Virgin flight, although everyone is excited about the day he will take off on one of his SpaceX rockets.

Blue Origin picks teenager to fly to space with Jeff Bezos

The 18-year-old Dutch teenager Olivier Daemen will be the fourth passenger to ride with Jeff Bezos on this space company’s suborbital rocket next Tuesday. Daemen, the son of a private equity executive, will fill in for the winner of last month’s $28 million auction — who will have to pass on this flight due to “scheduling conflicts.”

Olivier Daemen. Image credit: Blue Origin

The launch, scheduled for July 20th, will be Blue Origin’s first crewed missions to the edge of space. Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos, his brother Mark, aviation icon and astronaut candidate Wally Funk, and Daemen will launch aboard the company’s suborbital New Shepard rocket from Texas for a few minutes in microgravity. 

Daemen marks Blue Origin’s first paying customer, but it’s unclear how much the ticket cost. A spokeswoman at the company told The Verge they are not disclosing the price paid. “He was a participant in the auction and had secured a seat on the second flight. We moved him up when this seat on the first flight became available,” she added. 

The teenager, 18, would be the youngest person to go to space, while Funk, 82, would be the oldest.

Space goes brrr

Olivier Daemen is the son of Joes Daemen, the founder and CEO of Somerset Capital Partners. He had secured a seat on the second flight but was moved up when the seat on the first flight became available, the spokeswoman at Blue Origin explained. 

Flying on New Shepard will fulfill a lifelong dream for Daemen, who has long been fascinated by space and rockets since he was four, Blue Origin said. He graduated from high school in 2020 and took a gap year before continuing his studies to obtain his private pilot’s license. He will attend the University of Utrecht to study physics and innovation management.

“I am super excited to go to space and joining them on [the] flight,” Daemen said in a video posted by Bright, a Dutch media brand. “I’ve been dreaming about this all my life, and I will become the youngest astronaut ever, because I’m 18 years old.”

A race to space

Blue Origin received Federal Aviation Administration approval to fly passengers last Monday, a week before launch. The flight will be just nine days after billionaire Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson flew to space from New Mexico aboard his company’s SpaceShipTwo spaceplane with three other company employees.

Branson was accompanied by pilots Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci, chief astronaut Beth Moses, operations engineer Colin Bennett and VP of government affairs Sirisha Bandla. VSS Unity can take up to six passengers and two pilots, and the flights won’t go empty anytime soon. The company already has 600 reservations for tickets on future flights, sold between $200,000 and $250,000 each. 

Branson wasn’t previously expected to fly just now, as Virgin had said the company planned to fly the founder on its second to last test flight. But after fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos announced his own plan to fly on his company Blue Origin’s first passenger flight on July 20, Virgin decided to rearrange the schedule to secure an early lead in the “billionaire space race.”

Global space tourism is projected to reach just $1.7 billion by 2027, according to a report published earlier this year. Virgin already has some big names on its list of confirmed customers, from Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis to Justine Bieber and Rihanna – who have allegedly paid the ticket for a seat on future flights. 

Bezos picks aerospace pioneer Wally Funk to join him on space flight

Female pilot Wally Funk wanted to be an astronaut in the earliest days of spaceflight. But she was denied the job in the 1960s because of her gender. Now, she’ll finally have the opportunity to fulfill her dream of going to space. 

Bezos and Funk. Image credit: Blue Origin.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos announced on Instagram that Funk will be part of a four-person crew that will be launched into space by Blue Origin during a 10-minute flight later this month. This will make Funk, 82-years-old, the oldest person to ever travel to space, after the late John Glenn set the record at age 77 when boarding the Discovery shuttle. 

“I like to do things that nobody’s ever done. I didn’t think I’d ever get to go up” Funk said in a video. “I can’t tell people that are watching how fabulous I feel to be picked by Blue Origin to go on this trip.”

Funk grew up in the western United States in Taos, New Mexico. She was passionate about aviation from an early age, taking her first flying lessons at age nine. She wasn’t allowed to take mechanics at high school as the subject was still reserved for boys. Still, she obtained her pilot license and graduated from Oklahoma State University’s aviation program. 

Funk was one of the Mercury 13 pilots, a program in 1961 created to train women for NASA’s astronaut program. She graduated third in her class after taking rigorous mental and physical tests. But the program was abruptly canceled when the US government decided women shouldn’t use military facilities needed for space training. Her dreams — along with the dreams of all her colleagues — were shattered.

None of the women from program ever made it into space. But now, Funk will have the opportunity to do so on 20 July. She’ll be part of a four-person crew launched into space on the New Shepard rocket. They will experience a few minutes of weightlessness and marvel at the planet’s curvature before returning to Earth. 

Image credit: Blue Origin

Funk applied to become an astronaut at NASA on four occasions but was rejected every time. One of the reasons given was that she didn’t have an engineering degree and had not completed the flight program on a military fighter jet, which couldn’t be done by women at the time. She was essentially rejected because of her gender.

Nevertheless, Funk has never lost her love of flying. “I’ve been flying forever and I have 19,600 flying hours,” she said, also citing her experience teaching more than 3,000 people to fly. She recalled the disappointment when NASA’s program was shut down. “They told me I had completed the work faster than any of the guys,” she said. 

Bezos will also be a passenger on the flight, along with his brother Mark and the as-yet-unnamed buyer of a seat auctioned off in June. Bezos will be stepping down as chief executive of Amazon on 5 July, dedicating more of his time to his space endeavors. He’s been vying with billionaires Elon Musk and Richard Branson to become the first to travel into space on privately owned rockets. 

Branson is set to fly on July 11th, according to a recent announcement by space tourism company Virgin Galactic – which means he’ll be flying before Bezos. “I’ve always been a dreamer. My mum taught me t never give and reach for the stars. It’s time to turn that dream into a reality abord the next Virgin Galactic spaceflight,” Branson tweeted. 

Why Jeff Bezos’ retirement from Amazon means big things for space

Credit: Blue Origin.

In a short letter to Amazon employees on February 2, Jeff Bezos announced he would be stepping down from his role as chief executive of the company, in order to focus on other initiatives. One of these initiatives is Blue Origin, a space exploration company that has been sitting in the shadow of SpaceX for years. Will Bezos use this newly opened up time and energy to finally one-up his long-time rival Elon Musk?

Jeff Bezos: space tycoon

Bezos has had one of the most epic runs in business — ever. Starting from humble beginnings in which he bootstrapped Amazon in his garage in 1995, the company is now worth $1.7 trillion. The company first started out selling books, but now offers basically everything from kitchen appliances to container houses.

After 25 years of relentless growth, Bezos, now 57, is ready to move on to other things. In his letter, he explained he’ll transition to the role of executive chair of the Amazon board, while Andy Jassy, the current chief of the incredibly successful Amazon Web Services, will step up as CEO of the company.

However, this doesn’t mean that Bezos is ready to retire to some private island and enjoy the spoils reserved for the world’s richest person. On the contrary, he seems quite keen on pursuing his other ventures.

“Being the CEO of Amazon is a deep responsibility, and it’s consuming. When you have a responsibility like that, it’s hard to put attention on anything else. As Exec Chair I will stay engaged in important Amazon initiatives but also have the time and energy I need to focus on the Day 1 Fund, the Bezos Earth Fund, Blue Origin, The Washington Post, and my other passions. I’ve never had more energy, and this isn’t about retiring. I’m super passionate about the impact I think these organizations can have,” Bezos wrote in the farewell letter to his Amazonians.

Bezos has always been passionate about space exploration. While a student at Princeton, where he majored in electrical engineering and computer science, he headed the local chapter of Students for the Exploration and Development of Space.

But after university, he started a career in finance, working as the vice-president of a hedge fund before founding his legendary first business. Once Amazon took off, his sights were set back to space ventures.

Not a lot of people are aware of this, but Bezos actually founded Blue Origin in 2000, which is two years before Elon Musk started SpaceX.

But while SpaceX has steamrolled its competition, including NASA itself, by launching a record number of commercial satellites and astronauts to orbit, Blue Origin is lagging far behind — or at least that’s what seems to be happening.

From what we know, which is very little, Blue Origin may actually be ahead (although that’s unlikely). Since it was founded, Blue Origin has always been shrouded in mystery and secrecy.

It was only in the last five years or so that the company’s public relations started to open up, steadily emerging from stealth. Bezos himself even welcomed a group of reporters during a tour of the company’s headquarters in Kent, Washington, where he talked about some of the company’s major projects.

One of them was New Shepard, the company’s first operational rocket and the world’s first reusable rocket that touched down on a landing pad, just a couple of weeks before SpaceX demonstrated its Falcon 9 reusability in December 2015. Granted, New Shepard can only operate in the suborbital field, while Falcon 9 has a much bigger range capable of sending payloads to orbit.

New Shepard rocket gently landing. Credit: Blue Origin.

Bezos has presided over some high-profile publicity events for the company, such as the unveiling of the Blue Moon lunar lander or the first touchdown of the New Shepard reusable rocket, his role at Blue Origin has always been limited.

Up until now, Bezos devoted around one day a week to Blue Origin operations, which he kept alive by funding the company with $1 billion of his own money every year.

Building the space infrastructure of the future

While Musk’s ultimate vision is that of founding a Martian colony inhabited by thousands of people during his lifetime, Bezos is no less ambitious. His long-term vision for Blue Origin is to provide a platform where millions of people live and work in space in free-floating colonies.

That might sound like a pipedream, but the Amazon founder speaks from experience. He witnessed first-hand how computing power and bandwidth combined to create multi-trillion dollar markets for online businesses. Once space is cheap and safe, entrepreneurs will rush to the market just like they did when they felt confident the internet was mature enough.

In fact, Bezos’s idea of the future implies that for most of us Earth would be just a place to visit. Instead, someday, much of the world’s population will live and work in space, thereby sparing the planet from pollution and the encroachment of nature. We’d visit Earth as we would a national park today..

Bezos has often remarked that there have never been more than 13 humans in space at one time. He finds this reality sad and woefully unambitious, which is why he’s funneling billions of his own money to change things.

A sneak peek of this vision can be seen in the company’s upcoming projects, which include taking tourists on suborbital trips, launching satellites on its reusable rockets, as well as astronauts to the space station, and developing a lunar lander for NASA. Mirroring SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet venture, Amazon is developing Project Kuiper, which will form a constellation of satellites meant to beam the internet to any place on Earth. Blue Origin will of course be in charge of putting all of these tiny internet satellites into orbit.

For most of the two decades since its existence, Blue Origin was often seen as Jeff Bezos’ ‘rocket company’, almost like it was some hobby, a pet project. But now that he seems more committed, Blue Origin could occupy a more central role in Bezos’ life. We know that it was his relentless drive for growth that propelled Amazon to the stratosphere, where the air is so rare only a few tech giants like Google and Apple can boast of over $1 trillion market caps. Perhaps the same attitude and energy might drive BlueOrigin to shoot for the stars. 

A crewman sprays water over a recovered injector plate. (c) Bezos Expeditions

Apollo 11 rocket engines may have been recovered from Atlantic Ocean floor

A crewman sprays water over a recovered injector plate. (c) Bezos Expeditions

A crewman sprays water over a recovered injector plate. (c) Bezos Expeditions

Jeff Bezos is an extraordinary individual whom I admire very much, not because of its almost ubiquitous success in every attempt he has endeavored, but rather because Bezos, much like SpaceX‘s Elon Musk, is a man of vision – a man that recognizes value both in man and nature, and strives for progress.

The Amazon founder, like all great visionaries, is a man that isn’t afraid to relive the past, and moreover to cherish it. This is why last year he announced through his  Bezos Expeditions venture fund website that an underwater expedition would be on its way to retrieve the enormous F-1 rocket engines used during the iconic Apollo 11 launch that put man for the first time on the moon.

These rocket engines were behemoths, no less, of thrust and pure raw power, gobbling up 1 ton of RP-1 fuel and 2 tons of liquid oxygen per second! They were used during the Apollo missions to propel the Apollo 11’s Saturn V launch vehicle off the launch pad for up to 150 seconds and onward to the moon.

Anyway, almost exactly one year after Bezos announcement, his foundation reported that the very first components and engine parts have been recovered from the bottom of the Atlantic ocean, after more than 40 years of resting on the seabed. As you can imagine this was no easy task. First of all, the engines were found and had to be retrieved from a depth of three miles or 2,000 feet deeper than the Titan wreck. As such, human divers were absolutely left out of the question and the expedition had to rely on mechanized unmanned submersibles to perform the task.

Remotely controlled, with obstructed visibility due to the murky waters and equipped not with the gentlest of robots, the team involved in the expedition performed a Herculean task in a remarkable display of skill – remember, each fully assembled F-1 is 19 feet (5.8 meters) from nozzle to fuel inlets and weighs about 20,000 lbs (about 9,000 kg). The salvaging team was headed by  Rory Golden, who previously worked with Dr. Robert Ballard in locating the Titanic.

What’s interesting however at this point is that the salvaged F-1s might not come from the Apollo 11 mission, but from other missions. Each engine was hand built and assembled, with each component being thoroughly tagged with serial numbers in order for the manufacturing process to be scrutinized. Most of the salvaged components, however, have been so plagued by corrosion and the test of time that these serial numbers can’t be found anymore.

So far, the expedition has pulled out of the bottom of the Atlantic ocean enough parts to fully assemble two F-1 engines. Bezos promises that the reconstructed engines will be part of a grand museum-quality display. It’s also worth noting that Bezos also has a private space venture of his own, Blue Origin, of which we’ll most likely hear about a lot in the future.

“We want the hardware to tell its true story, including its 5,000 mile per hour re-entry and subsequent impact with the ocean surface,” Bezos stated. “We’re excited to get this hardware on display where just maybe it will inspire something amazing.”

story via Ars Technica