Blue Origin: Jeff Bezos unveils plans for 'space business park'
- Published 26 October 2021
Blue Origin, the space tourism company owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has announced plans to launch a commercial space station.
Bosses said on Monday that they hope to operate the station, named "Orbital Reef," by the end of the decade.
Promotional material released by the company claims the station will be a "mixed-use business park" in space and will host up to 10 people.
The company will partner with Sierra Space and Boeing to build the outpost.
Blue Origin said the 32,000 sq ft station would provide customers with an ideal location for "film-making in microgravity" or "conducting cutting-edge research" and said it would also include a "space hotel".
At a press conference to launch the initiative, executives from Blue Origin and Sierra Space declined to give an estimate of the building costs, though the project seems assured of heavy funding from Mr Bezos, who has committed to spending $1bn (£726m) a year on Blue Origin.
The announcement comes as Nasa searches for proposals to replace the 20-year-old International Space Station (ISS). While funding for the station has been guaranteed until at least 2030, the outpost is in desperate need of repairs.
Russian officials have previously warned that its cosmonauts could leave the station by 2025 over fears outdated equipment could trigger a major incident.
In response, Nasa announced plans earlier this year to award $400m in private contracts to space companies to help the agency replace the ageing outpost.
However, there is likely to be stiff competition for the funding. Earlier this week, a partnership between Nanoracks, Voyager Space and Lockheed Martin announced its own plans to launch a space station into low orbit by 2027.
Blue Origin has faced mixed fortunes so far this year. High-profile launches of its New Shepard rocket, which saw Mr Bezos and Star Trek star William Shatner blasted into space, gained significant media attention.
But the company has also faced accusations of sexual harassment in the workplace and of turning a blind eye to serious safety concerns from former employees.
Last month it missed out on a lucrative $2.9bn Nasa contract which went to billionaire Elon Musk's Space X, one of Blue Origin's chief rivals in the commercial space race.
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The moment Jeff Bezos and crew launched into space on the first human flight of Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket
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Jeff Bezos launches to space aboard New Shepard rocket ship
- Published 20 July 2021
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The moment Jeff Bezos and crew launch into space on the first human flight of New Shepard
Billionaire Jeff Bezos has made a short journey to space, in the first crewed flight of his rocket ship, New Shepard.
He was accompanied by Mark Bezos, his brother, Wally Funk, an 82-year-old pioneer of the space race, and an 18-year-old student.
They travelled in a capsule with the biggest windows flown in space, offering stunning views of the Earth.
When the capsule touched back down after the 10-minute, 10-second flight, Jeff Bezos exclaimed: "Best day ever!"
New Shepard, built by Bezos' company Blue Origin, is designed to serve the burgeoning market for space tourism.
Amazon founder Mr Bezos - and other participants in the "billionaire space race" - have been criticised for offering what some see as joy rides for the super-wealthy. Critics say the money could be spent on pay rises for employees or fighting climate change.
However, Mr Bezos insists he has an environmental vision: "We need to take all heavy industry, all polluting industry and move it into space, and keep Earth as this beautiful gem of a planet that it is," he told MSNBC.
"It's going to take decades and decades to achieve, but you have to start, and big things start with small steps... that's what this sub-orbital tourism mission allows us to do, it allows us to practice over and over."
- Jeff Bezos sets date for space sightseeing flight
- Jeff Bezos and brother to fly to space in July
- Wally Funk, 82, joins Bezos space flight
On this flight was the oldest person who has been to space - Ms Funk - and the youngest, student Oliver Daemen.
The spacecraft lifted off at 14:12 BST (09:12 EDT) from a private launch site near Van Horn, Texas.
At a post-launch news briefing, Jeff Bezos said: "My expectations were high and they were dramatically exceeded."
Two minutes into the flight, the capsule separated from its rocket and continued upwards towards the Karman Line - the most widely recognised boundary of space, that lies 100km up. The newly minted-astronauts shouted "wow!" and cheered.
The post-flight briefing was shown video of the occupants performing somersaults and tumbles during four minutes of weightlessness. Stunning views of the Earth could be seen outside.
Jeff Bezos said he was surprised by the sensation of microgravity: "It felt so normal," he explained.
Ms Funk added: "It was great, I loved it, I can hardly wait to go again."
In the 1960s, Ms Funk was one member of a group of women called the Mercury 13. They underwent the same screening tests as male astronauts, but never got to fly under the US national space programme.
Mr Bezos told CBS News on Monday: "Wally can outrun all of us. During the Mercury 13, she was better than all the men and I can guarantee that's still true today."
Bezos' brother Mark, 53, is a senior vice president at Robin Hood, a New York-based charity.
The Silicon Valley space race
Oliver Daemen is the son of a Dutch financier. He had originally secured a seat on the second flight, but was drafted in to replaced the anonymous winner of a public auction who had to pull out from the trip with Bezos.
The capsule reached a maximum altitude of around 107km (351,210ft) before starting its descent, parachuting down to a soft landing in the West Texas desert.
On the way down, Jeff Bezos told mission control: "You have a very happy crew up here."
Mark revealed that iconic items from aviation history were brought along on the flight. These included a piece of canvas used on the Wright brothers' first plane, a medallion made from the vehicle that performed the first hot air balloon flight in 1783 and a pair of goggles used by pilot Amelia Earhart.
Jeff Bezos recently resigned as chief executive of Amazon, the e-commerce giant he founded, in order to concentrate on his other ventures, including Blue Origin.
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Jeff Bezos and crew launch into space on New Shepard. Video, 00:02:17 Jeff Bezos and crew launch into space on New Shepard
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Jeff Bezos And Blue Origin Travel Deeper Into Space Than Richard Branson
A mural of Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos adorns the side of a building in Van Horn, Texas, over the weekend. Bezos launched into space Tuesday morning from Blue Origin's facilities in the town. Sean Murphy/AP hide caption
A mural of Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos adorns the side of a building in Van Horn, Texas, over the weekend. Bezos launched into space Tuesday morning from Blue Origin's facilities in the town.
Jeff Bezos has become the second billionaire this month to reach the edge of space, and he did so aboard a rocket built by a company he launched.
Liftoff! Jeff Bezos And 3 Crewmates Travel To Space And Back In Under 15 Minutes
Besides Bezos, the crew included brother Mark Bezos (left), 18-year-old physics student Oliver Daemen and 82-year-old pioneering female aviator Wally Funk. Blue Origin hide caption
Besides Bezos, the crew included brother Mark Bezos (left), 18-year-old physics student Oliver Daemen and 82-year-old pioneering female aviator Wally Funk.
The founder of Amazon, who stepped down as CEO this month, lifted off early Tuesday with three crewmates on the maiden flight of Blue Origin's New Shepard launch vehicle.
Riding with Bezos on the planned 11-minute flight were brother Mark Bezos as well as the oldest and youngest people ever to fly into space – 82-year-old pioneering female aviator Wally Funk and Oliver Daemen , 18, a physics student. Daemen, whose seat was paid for by his father, Joes Daemen , CEO of Somerset Capital Partners, was put on the crew after the winner of an anonymous $28 million auction for the flight had to postpone due to a scheduling conflict.
The crew took off on a special anniversary
New Shepard lifted off from the company's facilities in Van Horn, Texas , shortly after 9 a.m. ET.
The date of July 20 for the inaugural flight is significant – it's the same day in 1969 that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin aboard Apollo 11's Eagle became the first humans to land on the moon.
Bragging rights over Branson
New Shepard's suborbital flight was designed to take the crew past the Kármán line , the internationally recognized boundary of space, at nearly 330,000 feet, or roughly 62 miles above the Earth. That will give Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin — which he founded in 2000 — bragging rights over Virgin Galactic's Richard Branson, whose flight this month aboard SpaceShipTwo hit a peak altitude of around 282,000 feet, surpassing NASA's designated Earth-space boundary of 50 miles, but falling well short of the Kármán line.
Richard Branson Has Completed A Historic Trip To The Edge Of Space On Virgin Galactic
Blue origin vs. virgin galactic.
Besides the altitude, the New Shepard launch had some other key differences with Branson's July 11 flight: Instead of lifting off from a pad, the Virgin Galactic vehicle was dropped from under a specially designed aircraft at about 50,000 feet before firing its ascent engines. The Virgin Galactic spacecraft also glided back to Earth for a space shuttle-like runway landing.
By contrast, the 60-foot tall New Shepard launched like a conventional rocket, and its capsule was designed to return home dangling from three parachutes in a manner similar to NASA's human spaceflights of the 1960s and '70s. However, its booster returned to the pad for a soft touchdown so that it can be reused later. And the capsule, with Bezos and his crewmates aboard, came back to the high plains of Texas using braking rockets, instead of splashing down at sea.
New Shepard, which is fully autonomous, is named after Alan Shepard, who in 1961 became the first American into space.
Elon Musk has hasn't made it to space, but his company has
With Bezos' flight complete, Elon Musk, the head of SpaceX, is left as the odd man out in the billionaire space race. Even so, Musk's SpaceX, which has flown astronauts to the International Space Station, is a heavyweight in the commercial space business compared with either Virgin Galactic or Blue Origin.
Branson and Bezos are hoping to tap into the potentially lucrative market for space tourism, while Musk is more focused on working with NASA, gaining market share in the satellite launch industry, and on his dream to send humans to Mars.
Even so, Musk turned up to watch Branson's flight and has reportedly put down a $10,000 deposit to reserve a seat to fly on a future Virgin Galactic flight, where tickets are thought to go for $250,000 a pop, but it's unknown if or when he will buckle in and blast off.
Jeff Bezos launches new era of space travel with Blue Origin ride
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos achieves his dream of flying to the edge of space. His company, Blue Origin, says it’s now open for space tourism.
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The New Shepard rocket rumbled to life early Tuesday, catapulting Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos and three others to the edge of space and allowing the world’s richest person to achieve a childhood dream.
Back on Earth, spaceflight enthusiasts saw the brief voyage as the realization of decades of promise — the beginning of a new era for space tourism.
“Space tourism is finally here,” said Alan Ladwig, author of the book “See You in Orbit? Our Dream of Spaceflight.” “It’s still going to be expensive, it’s still not going to be something everybody can do right away, but it’s a first step.”
Bezos’ suborbital flight — his company Blue Origin’s first crewed launch — came a little over a week after British billionaire Richard Branson along with five others boarded a space plane built by his Virgin Galactic firm and flew to the edge of space and back, making it there ahead of Bezos, who had announced his plans earlier. Virgin Galactic plans to complete two more test flights before it begins flying paying customers to space next year.
Although Blue Origin flew its first paying customer on Tuesday’s flight — 18-year-old Oliver Daemen, the son of a Dutch private equity executive and now the youngest person to go to space — it has yet to announce seat prices or additional details about its commercial operations. During a livestream of Tuesday’s launch, Ariane Cornell, Blue Origin’s director of astronaut sales, repeatedly encouraged interested customers to email the company.
Already the company is approaching $100 million in private sales, Bezos told an assembled audience of guests, employees and reporters after the launch.
An auction for a seat on Tuesday’s flight ended with a winning bid of $28 million , but the ticket holder, whose identity has not been disclosed, postponed the trip, citing scheduling conflicts, according to Blue Origin. They will fly on a future mission. (Proceeds from the auction for a spot on Tuesday’s launch went to the Club for the Future foundation, which was founded by Blue Origin and is aimed at promoting science, technology, engineering and math careers. From those proceeds, 19 nonprofit organizations were selected to receive $1-million grants.)
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But suborbital flights aren’t the company’s only goal; Blue Origin plans to build a family of larger rockets that could hoist cargo, satellites and people to orbit and beyond, eventually creating an ecosystem to allow millions of people to live and work in space. Bezos has previously suggested building cylindrical habitats with artificial gravity known as O’Neill colonies, after the physicist Gerard K. O’Neill, who pioneered the idea.
“Big things start small,” Bezos said Tuesday. “We’re going to build a road to space so that our kids and their kids can build the future.”
The seeming arrival of the era of suborbital space tourism after years of hype has fueled public debate around the increasing commercialization of space and the role that billionaires play in the industry.
After his flight, Bezos thanked Amazon employees and customers, saying, “You guys paid for all this.” He has previously said he has sold about $1 billion of Amazon stock a year to fund Blue Origin .
The high current price tag for spaceflight — Virgin Galactic charges as much as $250,000 per ticket — reflects the pattern of technological advancements in other fields, such as cellphones and air travel, said Timiebi Aganaba, an assistant professor at Arizona State University’s School for the Future of Innovation in Society.
“If we look back at history ... it’s always started off with the people with the most resources that take the first risk,” she said. “We should celebrate the innovations that have happened and continue the conversations about how we can bring society along so that it’s not just a joyride for the rich.”
Winning auction bid to fly in space with Jeff Bezos: $28 million
Blue Origin did not disclose the winner’s name following the live online auction, but their identity will be revealed soon.
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The market for commercial suborbital spaceflight could include not just wealthy individuals but also research entities, governments and even NASA, said Laura Forczyk, owner of space consulting firm Astralytical. NASA is already a major customer for Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which ferries supplies and astronauts to the International Space Station.
“What we’re seeing now is the emergence,” she said. “We do not know yet how quickly this industry is going to mature.”
Alan Stern, a planetary scientist and associate vice president of the Southwest Research Institute’s space science and engineering division, plans to launch aboard Virgin Galactic’s space plane as soon as next year to conduct experiments in suborbital space. His flight will be paid for by NASA and the Southwest Research Institute.
Unlike other fields of research in which scientists studying environments such as a volcano or the ocean can perform their experiments in person, space researchers have had to automate their experiments so that they can be carried out remotely. That costs money and time and sometimes results in failures, said Stern, who has also spoken with Blue Origin about his interest in conducting experiments aboard New Shepard. Stern previously served as a consultant for Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic.
Regular and relatively inexpensive suborbital spaceflights would mean he could complete research projects and advance the field more rapidly.
He described Tuesday’s launch as a “watershed moment,” not because Bezos flew to suborbital space but because it indicated that there would be two commercial suborbital spaceflight companies ready for business. The competition could “start returning results for research for education and, frankly, just flying a greater cross section of people.”
Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket and capsule system launched shortly after 6 a.m. Pacific time from the company’s launchpad about 30 minutes north of Van Horn, Texas. The company had already completed a series of uncrewed flight tests.
Before the launch, about 100 reporters were gathered at the press site. Inns and hotels in the small town of Van Horn were sold out.
“My expectations were high, and they were dramatically exceeded,” Bezos said after his return.
He said the most profound part of the trip was seeing Earth’s atmosphere and how delicate it is — an epiphany experienced by many astronauts and known as the overview effect .
“As we move about the planet, we damage it,” Bezos said. “It’s one thing to recognize that intellectually; it’s another thing to see it with your own eyes how fragile it is.”
The New Shepard rocket booster separated from the crew capsule about two minutes after liftoff and returned to Earth minutes ahead of the capsule. Its return created a sonic boom that could be heard across the Guadalupe Mountains.
The capsule held Bezos, his brother Mark, customer Daemen and aviation pioneer Wally Funk. Audio from the launch livestream captured the capsule’s occupants cheering and reminding one another to look out the windows. They experienced about four minutes of weightlessness and were able to move about the capsule before strapping back into their seats for the return to the west Texas desert.
The craft landed back on Earth about 10 minutes after liftoff, buoyed by a trio of parachutes.
Bezos gave a thumbs up from his seat in the capsule shortly after landing. The crew emerged from the craft minutes later and was greeted by loved ones as well as a camera crew. To celebrate, they popped bottles of Champagne.
Back at the press site, about two miles from the launch tower, Blue Origin employees cried and cheered as the capsule’s parachutes deployed and when they saw Funk — at age 82, the oldest person to go to space — emerge from the capsule, arms outstretched in triumph.
Funk was part of a privately funded program called the First Lady Astronaut Trainees, also known as the Mercury 13, a group of U.S. female pilots who underwent the same physiological and psychological screening tests as NASA’s original Project Mercury astronauts but never went to space.
“I’ve been waiting a long time,” she said after the launch. “I want to go again.”
Mendez reported from Van Horn and Masunaga from Los Angeles.
Samantha Masunaga is a business reporter for the Los Angeles Times. She’s worked at the paper since 2014.
Andrew Mendez is a rising senior at the University of Nevada, Reno, double majoring in journalism and Spanish literature. He joined The Times over summer 2021 as a Business reporting intern through his school’s Reynolds Journalism Institute, working from Los Angeles.
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Ready to rocket, Jeff Bezos aims to open up space tourism
When Kent-based Blue Origin on Tuesday rockets Jeff Bezos upward on its first mission carrying humans into space, the wealthiest man on the planet will be blazing the trail of a newly hot recreation for the very rich: space tourism.
Bezos, creator of Amazon, founder and bankroller of Blue Origin, follows on the tail of the heavily marketed trip to space just days earlier by fellow billionaire Richard Branson in a Virgin Galactic spaceplane .
On Blue Origin’s rockets, tickets for its 11-minute thrill ride are initially expected to cost in excess of $300,000 per seat.
If an ephemeral experience with just three minutes of weightlessness seems a frivolous pursuit for people with money to burn, that’s not how Bezos sees it.
For him, space tourism is a way to advance and fund the technologies needed for his long-term ambitions: to make possible, in some far-off future, a sustainable space ecosystem where millions of people will live and work.
To achieve that far-reaching goal, he’s built at Blue Origin a company culture reflective of the Silicon Valley venture capital values that created Amazon and the other tech giants: an unshakable belief that technology linked with the capitalist profit motive will change the world.
Blue Origin engineer Gary Lai, one of the company’s first 20 employees and lead designer of the 60-foot-tall New Shepard reusable rocket that will boost Bezos into space, outlined in an interview the company’s rationale for space tourism.
“Even if the ticket prices are high, there are still a lot of high-net-worth individuals in the world … So there is a very healthy potential to fly very often,” he said. In turn, “Flying more and more will allow us to perfect those techniques, which will benefit all programs at Blue Origin.”
Bezos, on a 2016 press tour of Blue Origin’s Kent headquarters , likewise compared space tourism to the early aviators who flew biplanes around the U.S.
“The barnstormers who went around and landed in small towns and gave people rides up in the air, that was entertainment — but it really advanced aviation,” he said.
“You don’t get great at anything you do only 12 times a year,” Bezos said then, referring to the low frequency of NASA’s big space launches. “With the tourism mission, we can fly hundreds of times a year. That will be so much practice.”
For him and for Blue Origin, the New Shepard rocket — named after the first American to go to space, Alan Shepard — is the precursor to bolder steps later: putting rockets into orbit around the Earth, sending them to the moon and beyond.
Bezos sees space tourism on New Shepard as a steppingstone to that future.
“It’s not frivolous. It’s logical,” Bezos said in 2016. “It’s actually a critically important mission for taking this thing to the next level.”
After decades of waning public interest, excitement about space has been reignited over the past few years by the awesome technological innovation , as well as the marketing savvy, of Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Bezos’s Blue Origin.
As a result, venture capital money is pouring into space startups, with almost $38 billion going to space infrastructure companies in the past decade, according to the latest data from Space Capital, a firm that promotes investment in the industry.
Bezos, who sold $6.6 billion of Amazon stock in May, has said he is spending $1 billion a year on Blue Origin.
But will the new public interest be maintained? The sheer boldness and engineering magic of the 1969 moon landing captured people’s imagination, but then faded as the years passed with little to show for it but dust and rocks.
In line with Blue Origin’s Silicon Valley-style perspective, Lai believes the privatizing of space and the profit motive will make it different this time. Human interest in space exploration is “almost primal,” he said.
He said NASA’s Apollo and Space Shuttle programs faded because they “required so much government support, and the political will to sustain them started to wane. They became very bureaucratic and started to lack vision.”
“What companies like Blue Origin and SpaceX and others are bringing is to make this a commercially sustainable enterprise so it will not require government funding and the biannual cycles of Congress to fund,” Lai said. “If we can make this a commercially sustainable enterprise, it will grow on its own.”
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For that, space tourism will have to be profitable, he asserts.
“We will not get millions of people living and working in space, if it is not profitable.”
‘It will make money’
In Virgin Galactic’s quite different approach to lifting tourists into space, a crewed rocket-powered “spaceplane” is released from underneath a “mothership” at an altitude of 50,000 feet, then fires its engines and launches into space. It’s guided back to land by two pilots.
Branson projects building several global spaceports, enabling 400 flights to space a year on multiple models of the spaceplane.
On the Blue Origin rocket, in contrast, there’s no crew controlling the vehicle at any point, only passengers.
The booster rocket soars upward burning a mix of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. Its exhaust is a trail of water vapor with no carbon emissions.
Near the top of New Shepard’s arc the six-seat passenger capsule detaches. It descends on parachutes while the reusable booster rocket is guided down to land vertically, its descent softened by reigniting the engine as it approaches the ground.
Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket launch starts at 6:30 a.m. Central Daylight Time on Tuesday, July 20, in the West Texas desert. (That’s 4:30 a.m. Pacific Time.) Liftoff is slated for 8 a.m. CDT (6 a.m. PT) but could change.
Three people will join Bezos on Tuesday’s flight, two of them by his personal invitation: his brother, Mark Bezos ; and 82-year-old Wally Funk , one of the original female NASA astronauts trained for the Mercury missions who never got to go to space.
The fourth passenger is 18-year-old Oliver Daemen , son of the CEO of a private equity investment firm whose bid in Blue Origin’s charity auction had initially secured a seat on the second flight. Daemen was moved up after the auction winner, who had bid $28 million, chose to postpone to a later flight.
Rocketing into space is clearly a passionate dream for Bezos.
He often relates being captivated as a 5-year-old watching on TV as Neil Armstrong first stepped onto the moon. Bezos chose Tuesday for the flight because it’s the anniversary of that day 52 years ago.
On that 2016 press tour, he cited two reasons why humans need to go to space. The first, couched as an altruistic ideal, was to create an industrial ecosystem in space to preserve the finite resources here on earth.
The second might have come from his 5-year-old heart: “It’s a glorious adventure,” Bezos said.
Now it must also be a business, said Ariane Cornell, Blue Origin’s astronaut sales director, responsible for selling tickets to individuals who want to ride on New Shepard.
“Our founder has one of the most brilliant business minds around. So, this is a business. I can say that for sure,” Cornell said. “Absolutely. It will make money.”
She said more than 7,600 people registered for the company’s auction to buy a seat on the first flight. Since then, “I have been very busy on the phone talking to very serious customers from around the world.”
“While it’s a nascent market, I can tell you there’s a lot of pent-up demand to go to space,” she added.
After Tuesday’s flight Blue Origin has two more launches with passengers lined up for this year, “and many more to come,” Cornell said.
“People are clearly interested in paying more to be first certainly,” she said. “As more people go, we do see the price coming down.”
And she said the total package offered by Blue Origin is not so ephemeral. Ticket buyers will go to the Texas launch site to train for two days ahead of the rocket launch.
“All of that is part of the experience, not just the 11 minutes off the ground,” Cornell said.
Virgin Galactic, led by CEO Michael Colglazier who was previously president of Disneyland, similarly intends to market an overarching experience around the actual ride.
Cornell pitches the climactic ride to space as life-changing.
“You’re on top of a rocket. You’re going to get the rumble of the engine as you take off, you’re going to feel the G’s come on and you’re going to get that evolution of the colors outside those huge windows,” she said.
When the passengers unbuckle at the top of their capsule’s arc for 3 to 4 minutes of weightless floating and somersaults, they’ll have a striking view of the curvature of the earth, the blackness of space and the colors of the ocean-dominated planet that gave Blue Origin its name.
As for the brevity of that view, Cornell compared it to climbers summiting Everest, then very soon turning around to go back down.
“Still people do it,” she said. “I think people are going to want to do this for years and years and years to come.”
The space tourist market
Doug Harned, a financial analyst with Bernstein Research who covers the space industry, believes the space tourism business can make money near term.
“You can generate a lot of cash with these expensive tickets,” he said. “The operating costs are just dwarfed by what you can bring in revenues.”
Yet he worries the revenue might not be sustained for many years.
He said the two-and-a-half-hour webcast that surrounded Branson’s Virgin Galactic ride last Sunday, hosted by Stephen Colbert, fell flat and prompted scathing Twitter reviews.
“There was so much discussion about what an epic event this is,” said Harned. “Well, you go up there, you’re weightless for three minutes, pretty cool, and then come back down. People look at it and say, ‘Really, is it that exciting?'”
Taber MacCallum, CEO of Space Perspective , has a very different space tourism experience in mind. His Tucson, Ariz.-based company is touting “the world’s most radically gentle voyage to space” in a high-performance space balloon.
It will climb serenely over two hours to an altitude of just 100,000 feet, or 19 miles up, which is less than a third as high as New Shepard. But a successful unmanned test flight from Florida last month showed that’s high enough to view the curvature of the earth and the blackness of space.
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Though it won’t provide the experience of weightlessness, Space Perspective’s enclosed passenger cabin — with a fallback safety parachute in case the balloon fails — will float in the stratosphere for two hours before it starts to descend.
MacCallum is targeting taking passengers up in 2024, though with just one test flight completed he concedes that’s “an aggressive schedule.”
“We will fly when it’s safe,” he said.
Risk and reward
In the meantime, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are ready to fly space tourists.
And Bezos has bigger plans in the works.
The New Shepard rocket shoots its passengers up high and then goes straight down again, called a suborbital launch.
That’s far short of how the more powerful Falcon 9 rockets built by Elon Musk’s SpaceX boost satellites and humans into a steady orbit around the Earth. SpaceX is expected to take a civilian crew raising money for charity into orbit later this year.
Bezos’ team is working on orbital capability. Blue Origin is developing the much larger, two-stage New Glenn rocket — named after John Glenn, the first American to orbit Earth.
Now targeted to fly toward the end of 2022, New Glenn will take payloads and humans into orbit and eventually could go to the moon and beyond.
New Glenn’s first stage will land using the system developed for New Shepard. Its second stage will have engines derived from those of the smaller rocket. Its control software includes many of the same algorithms.
“New Shepard is a critical keystone part of all the programs that we’re doing at Blue,” said Cornell.
Blue Origin’s Latin motto — ‘Gradatim Ferociter’ or “step by step ferociously” — has brought steady success with no serious New Shepard failures. Still, there are dangers with space technology.
Virgin Galactic’s first spaceplane broke up in flight in 2014, when the crew prematurely unlocked the aircraft’s movable tail section. One pilot died and the second was badly injured.
In an April report assessing the financial risk for investors in Virgin Galactic, Harned wrote that a single catastrophic failure with paying passengers aboard, whether by Virgin, Blue Origin or SpaceX, “could have a crushing effect on demand for all.”
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), in granting a launch license to Blue Origin, required it to take out $150 million in liability insurance for its flights. Any personal coverage beyond that is up to the astronauts.
To assess the risk for Bezos on Tuesday, no one is better placed than Gary Lai, who knows every safety system on the New Shepard rocket.
“From the napkin sketch phase through the final design and through most of the certification flights, I led that team,” Lai said.
Through 15 previous New Shepard launches, Lai’s team found problems and fixed them.
Blue Origin designed and flight tested an escape system that propels the passenger capsule to safety away from the main rocket if anything goes wrong on the launchpad or during the ascent.
Conducting hundreds of test flights, as Boeing would do for a new airplane design before putting passengers aboard, would be prohibitively expensive. Yet Lai is confident of success.
At this point, Lai said he has no sense of fear, only excitement.
“I feel we’ve done everything that we can to make this safe,” he said. “The only thing really to make it safer is simply not to fly and just stay on the ground.”
“But that is not what New Shepard was made for, to sit on the ground,” said Lai. “You need to fly.”
The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.
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Welcome to the age of billionaire joyrides to space
Blue Origin launched its first flight with humans aboard, including billionaire Jeff Bezos.
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Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has flown straight to the border of space. The billionaire — carried in a rocket built by his spaceflight company Blue Origin and accompanied by three fellow space tourists — joins a small but growing number of people who have traveled to space but aren’t professionally trained astronauts.
Bezos’s trip is a big deal for Blue Origin — although its New Shepard rocket, named after the first American to visit space, Alan Shepard , has already had 15 successful test flights . Tuesday is the first time the rocket carried humans to space. But more importantly, the journey signals that the era of civilian space tourism is officially here — or at least, it is for the very wealthy.
On July 11, Richard Branson, fellow billionaire and the founder of space tourism company Virgin Galactic, beat Bezos to the border of space when he flew there on a 90-minute trip with five other passengers on one of his company’s planes.
Bezos’s and Branson’s space travel is a reminder that space is no longer only a place where national governments set out to explore and to learn more about the universe, but a terrain that private businesses are capitalizing on. Bezos has invested billions of his own money into Blue Origin, and his company recently auctioned a ticket to space on one of its rockets for $28 million.
At a pre-launch mission briefing on Sunday, Blue Origin’s director of astronaut sales Ariane Cornell said two more flights were anticipated this year and that the company had “already built a robust pipeline of customers that are interested.” Analysts at the investment banking firm Canaccord Genuity have estimated that tourism to suborbital space could be an $8 billion industry by the end of the decade.
Blue Origin hosted a live feed on its website.
Tuesday’s flight path
Around 9:15 am ET on July 20, Blue Origin’s rocket took off from a remote desert in West Texas. At liftoff, the vehicle launched toward space, carrying a six-seat capsule containing Bezos and the other passengers, pushed upward by a powerful, 60-foot-tall booster rocket.
To reach space, New Shepard moves incredibly quickly: faster than Mach 3 , or more than three times the speed of sound. A few minutes into the flight, the capsule separated from the booster, which then headed back toward Earth and landed vertically (ensuring it’s reusable for future flights).
Meanwhile, Blue Origin’s capsule headed to the apex of its flight path and crossed the Kármán line, the internationally recognized border between Earth’s atmosphere and space. That’s about 62 miles above the Earth’s surface, about 10 miles higher than Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic flight earlier this month . Like that flight, those traveling on Blue Origin’s New Shepard were given a stunning view of Earth and had the chance to experience weightlessness.
“They’re obviously going a little bit higher, a little bit faster, but they’re still only going to have just a few minutes of low microgravity experience before coming right back down,” Wendy Whitman Cobb, a professor at the US Air Force’s School of Air and Space Studies, told Recode. ”There’s also the notion of what’s called the ‘overview effect.’ That’s when astronauts do get up into space and are high enough to see the Earth for what it is, and it sort of changes how they view things on Earth.”
After reaching the apex of the flight, the capsule headed back into Earth’s atmosphere, eventually deploying parachutes to land. Overall, the whole trip clocked in at just 10 to 15 minutes .
Blue Origin’s passengers are making history
Jeff Bezos, who founded Blue Origin back in 2000, is fulfilling his lifelong dream of traveling to space . “If you see the Earth from space, it changes you. It changes your relationship with this planet, with humanity,” explained the billionaire in a video announcing the flight in June . “It’s a big deal for me.”
Bezos was joined by his brother, firefighter and charity executive Mark Bezos. The flight also carried both the oldest and youngest people to ever visit space: Wally Funk , an 82-year-old American aviator, and Oliver Daemen, an 18-year-old Dutch teenager. Funk, the Federal Aviation Administration’s first female flight inspector, was one of the first women to train to become a NASA astronaut, but was ultimately denied the chance to travel to space because of her gender. Daemen is joining the flight as Blue Origin’s first paying customer; he’s taking the place of a still-unnamed bidder who paid $28 million for a seat (that person reportedly had a scheduling conflict and will travel on a later flight ).
While Blue Origin has made history in several ways, the flight is also a reminder that many people see space tourism, at least for the foreseeable future, as primarily funded by and for the very rich — and that it won’t do much to advance science and our understanding of space.
“The experience of a few hyper-wealthy amateurs paying $28 million to vomit for 15 minutes probably won’t bring many average people closer to spaceflight or change their impression of it,” Matthew Hersch, a historian of technology at Harvard, told Recode in an email. “Compared to NASA’s space vehicles, they are clever amusement park rides with minimal utility, intended to support a tourism business that has never been part of NASA’s charter.”
In fact, Bezos and Blue Origin are not the only private ventures looking to cash in on joyrides to space. Virgin Galactic, fresh off Branson’s flight, is already moving ahead with its plans to test and modify its planes for eventual commercial service . And this fall, SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk, is sending its rocket to space too, with billionaire Jared Isaacman aboard . At the same time, NASA is also bringing these companies along for more ambitious ventures, including hiring SpaceX to transport its astronauts to the International Space Station.
“Showing customers [and] showing the world that they have enough confidence in their system to get on board and experience it themselves ... is a big part of this,” Whitman Cobb, of the Air Force School, told Recode. “Part of it is also ego.”
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Jeff Bezos blasts into space on own rocket: ‘Best day ever!’
Oliver Daemen, from left, Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and space tourism company Blue Origin, Wally Funk and Bezos’ brother Mark pose for photos in front of the Blue Origin New Shepard rocket, derby, after their launch from the spaceport near Van Horn, Texas, Tuesday, July 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket launches carrying passengers Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and space tourism company Blue Origin, brother Mark Bezos, Oliver Daemen and Wally Funk, from its spaceport near Van Horn, Texas, Tuesday, July 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket launches carrying passengers Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and space tourism company Blue Origin, his brother Mark Bezos, Oliver Daemen and Wally Funk, from its spaceport near Van Horn, Texas, Tuesday, July 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Blue Origin’s New Shepard capsule parachutes safely down to the launch area with passengers Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and space tourism company Blue Origin, brother Mark Bezos, Oliver Daemen and Wally Funk, near Van Horn, Texas, Tuesday, July 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
This photo provided by Blue Origin, Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket lifts off Tuesday, July 20, 2021. The rocket is carrying passengers Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and space tourism company Blue Origin, his brother Mark Bezos, Oliver Daemen and Wally Funk. (Blue Origin via AP)
This photo provided by Blue Origin, Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket lands near Van Horn, Texas, Tuesday, July 20, 2021. Jeff Bezos has blasted into space on his rocket company’s first flight with passengers. He’s the second billionaire in just over a week to ride his own spacecraft. The Amazon founder soared to space with a hand-picked group in his Blue Origin capsule and landed 10 minutes later on the desert floor. (Blue Origin via AP)
A mural by Fernandezgraphics of Blue Origin and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is seen on the wall of a building Tuesday in Van Horn, Texas. Bezos has blasted into space on his rocket company’s first flight with passengers. He’s the second billionaire in just over a week to ride his own spacecraft. The Amazon founder rode to space with a hand-picked group and their Blue Origin capsule landed 10 minutes later on the desert floor in West Texas. (Jacob Ford/Odessa American via AP)
In this photo provided by Blue Origin, from left to right: Mark Bezos, brother of Jeff Bezos; Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and space tourism company Blue Origin; Oliver Daemen, of the Netherlands; and Wally Funk, aviation pioneer from Texas, pose for a photo. (Blue Origin via AP)
The passengers of the Blue Origin enter the capsule near Van Horn, Texas, Tuesday, July 20, 2021. The rocket is scheduled to launch later this morning will carry passengers Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and space tourism company Blue Origin, brother Mark Bezos, Oliver Daemen and Wally Funk. (Blue Origin via AP)
This photo provided by Blue Origin, Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket lifts off from a spaceport launch pad near Van Horn, Texas, Tuesday, July 20, 2021. The rocket is carrying passengers Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and space tourism company Blue Origin, his brother Mark Bezos, Oliver Daemen and Wally Funk. (Blue Origin via AP)
Oliver Daemen, from left, Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and space tourism company Blue Origin, Wally Funk and Bezos’ brother Mark pose for photos in front of the rocket that landed safely after their launch from the spaceport near Van Horn, Texas, Tuesday, July 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Wally Funk, right, describes their flight experience as Mark Bezos, left, and Jeff Bezos, left, center, founder of Amazon and space tourism company Blue Origin, applaud from the spaceport near Van Horn, Texas, Tuesday, July 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Oliver Daemen, from left, Mark Bezos and Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and space tourism company Blue Origin, look on as Wally Funk, right, describes the experience after their launch from the spaceport near Van Horn, Texas, Tuesday, July 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Mark Bezos, from left, Oliver Daemen, Wally Funk, right rear, and Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and space tourism company Blue Origin walk out to see the nearby rocket that landed safely after their launch from the spaceport near Van Horn, Texas, Tuesday, July 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and space tourism company Blue Origin jogs onto the Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket landing pad to pose for photos at the spaceport near Van Horn, Texas, Tuesday, July 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Oliver Daemen, from left, Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and space tourism company Blue Origin, Wally Funk and Bezos’ brother Mark pose for photos in front of the Blue Origin New Shepard rocket, left rear, after their launch from the spaceport near Van Horn, Texas, Tuesday, July 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Mark Bezos, left, looks on as Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and space tourism company Blue Origin, puts goggles over his eyes that belonged to aviator Amelia Mary Earhart during a post launch news briefing from its spaceport near Van Horn, Texas, Tuesday, July 20, 2021. The goggles were carried aboard the New Shepard during Tuesday’s launch. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Mark Bezos, left, Jeff Bezos, center, founder of Amazon and space tourism company Blue Origin, and Wally Funk, right, make comments during a post launch news briefing from its spaceport near Van Horn, Texas, Tuesday, July 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Oliver Daemen smiles as he during a post launch briefing where passengers described their flight experience from the spaceport near Van Horn, Texas, Tuesday, July 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Mark Bezos smiles during a post launch briefing where passengers described their flight experience from the spaceport near Van Horn, Texas, Tuesday, July 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
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VAN HORN, Texas (AP) — Jeff Bezos blasted into space Tuesday on his rocket company’s first flight with people on board, becoming the second billionaire in just over a week to ride his own spacecraft.
The Amazon founder was accompanied by a hand-picked group: his brother, an 18-year-old from the Netherlands and an 82-year-old aviation pioneer from Texas — the youngest and oldest to ever fly in space.
“Best day ever!” Bezos said when the capsule touched down on the desert floor in remote West Texas after the 10-minute flight.
Named after America’s first astronaut, Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket soared on the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, a date chosen by Bezos for its historical significance. He held fast to it, even as Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson pushed up his own flight from New Mexico and beat him to space by nine days.
The two private companies chasing space tourism dollars, though, have drawn criticism for catering to the rich while so many are struggling amid the pandemic.
During Tuesday’s flight, Blue Origin’s capsule reached an altitude of about 66 miles (106 kilometers), more than 10 miles (16 kilometers) higher than Branson’s July 11 ride. The 60-foot (18-meter) booster accelerated to Mach 3 or three times the speed of sound to get the capsule high enough, before separating and landing upright.
Unlike Branson’s piloted rocket plane, Bezos’ capsule was completely automated and required no official staff on board for the up-and-down flight.
During their several minutes of weightlessness, video from inside the capsule showed the four floating, doing somersaults, tossing Skittles candies and throwing balls, with lots of cheering, whooping and exclamations of “Wow!” The Bezos brothers also joined their palms to display a “HI MOM” greeting written on their hands. The capsule landed under parachutes, with Bezos and his guests briefly experiencing nearly six times the force of gravity, or 6 G’s, on the way back.
Led by Bezos, they climbed out of the capsule after touchdown with wide grins, embracing parents, partners and children, then popped open bottles of sparkling wine, spraying one another.
“My expectations were high and they were dramatically exceeded,” Bezos said later.
Their flight lasted 10 minutes and 10 seconds — five minutes shy of Alan Shepard’s Freedom 7 flight in 1961. Shepard’s daughters, Laura and Julie, were introduced at a press event a few hours later.
Sharing Bezos’ dream-come-true adventure was Wally Funk, from the Dallas area, one of 13 female pilots who went through the same tests as NASA’s all-male astronaut corps in the early 1960s but never made it into space.
“I’ve been waiting a long time to finally get it up there,” Funk said.
“I want to go again — fast,” she added.
Joining them on the ultimate joyride was the company’s first paying customer, Oliver Daemen, a last-minute fill-in for the mystery winner of a $28 million charity auction who opted for a later flight. The Dutch teen’s father took part in the auction, and agreed on a lower undisclosed price last week when Blue Origin offered his son the vacated seat.
“It was so amazing,” Daemen said. “Let’s hope that many, many more people can do this.”
Four hours after their flight, Bezos drove his crew over to see the rocket that carried them safely to space.
Among the items brought on the flight: A pair of aviator Amelia Earhart’s goggles and a piece of fabric from the original Wright Flyer.
“I got goose bumps,” said Angel Herrera of El Paso, who watched the launch from inside Van Horn High School, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) away. “The hair on the back of my neck stood up, just witnessing history.”
No one is rushing to buy a ticket from this bleak and isolated town.
“This ride is only for the wealthy,” pizza shop owner Jesus Ramirez said after watching the launch, adding that he hoped the venture would attract businesses to the town and provide opportunities for local companies.
Blue Origin — founded by Bezos in 2000 in Kent, Washington, near Amazon’s Seattle headquarters — hasn’t revealed its price for a ride to space but has lined up spots for other auction bidders. Ticket sales, including the auction, are approaching $100 million, Bezos said. Two more flights are planned by year’s end.
The recycled rocket and capsule used Tuesday flew on the last two space demos, according to company officials.
Virgin Galactic already has more than 600 reservations at $250,000 apiece. Founded by Branson in 2004, the company has sent crew into space four times and plans two more test flights from New Mexico before launching customers next year.
Blue Origin’s approach was slower and more deliberate. After 15 successful unoccupied test flights to space since 2015, Bezos finally declared it was time to put people on board. The Federal Aviation Administration agreed last week, approving the commercial space license.
Bezos, 57, who also owns The Washington Post, claimed the first seat. The next went to his 50-year-old brother, Mark Bezos, an investor and volunteer firefighter, then Funk and Daemen. They spent two days together in training.
University of Chicago space historian Jordan Bimm said the passenger makeup is truly remarkable. Imagine if the head of NASA decided he wanted to launch in 1961 instead of Shepard on the first U.S. spaceflight, he said in an email.
“That would have been unthinkable!” Bimm said. “”It shows just how much the idea of who and what space is for has changed in the last 60 years.”
Bezos stepped down this month as Amazon’s CEO and last week donated $200 million to renovate the National Air and Space Museum.
Fewer than 600 people have reached the edge of space or beyond. Until Tuesday, the youngest was 25-year-old Soviet cosmonaut Gherman Titov and the oldest at 77 was Mercury-turned-shuttle astronaut John Glenn.
Both Bezos and Branson want to drastically increase those overall numbers, as does SpaceX’s Elon Musk, who’s skipping brief space hops and sending his private clients straight to orbit for tens of millions apiece, with the first flight coming up in September.
“We’re going to build a road to space so our kids and their kids can build the future,” Bezos said. “We need to do that to solve the problems here on Earth.”
Despite appearances, Bezos and Branson insist they weren’t trying to outdo each other by strapping in themselves. Bezos noted this week that only one person can lay claim to being first in space: Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, who rocketed into orbit on April 12, 1961.
Branson sent a congratulatory tweet: “Impressive! Very best to all the crew from me and all the team” at Virgin Galactic.
Blue Origin is working on a massive rocket, New Glenn, to put payloads and people into orbit from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The company also wants to put astronauts back on the moon with its proposed lunar lander Blue Moon; it’s challenging NASA’s sole contract award to SpaceX.
Included in the many people that Bezos thanked Tuesday was “every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer. Because you guys paid for all this.” Bezos has said he finances the rocket company by selling $1 billion in Amazon stock each year.
AP reporters Sean Murphy in Van Horn and Candice Choi in New York contributed to this report.
The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
The jaw-droppingly high, out-of-this-world carbon footprint of space tourism
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The commercial race to get tourists to space is heating up between Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson and former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. On July 11, Branson ascended 80 km (49 miles) to reach the edge of space in his piloted Virgin Galactic VSS Unity spaceplane, while Bezos’ autonomous Blue Origin rocket launched today on July 20 , coinciding with the anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing. Although Bezos launched later than Branson, he set out to reach higher altitudes — about 120 km, or 74 miles .
The launch demonstrates a new type of offering to very wealthy tourists: The opportunity to truly reach outer space. Tour packages will provide passengers with a brief 10-minute frolic in zero gravity and glimpses of Earth from space. Not to be outdone, later in 2021, Elon Musk’s SpaceX will provide four to five days of orbital travel with its Crew Dragon capsule.
What are the environmental consequences of a space tourism industry likely to be? Bezos boasts that his Blue Origin rockets are greener than Branson’s VSS Unity. The Blue Engine 3 (BE-3) launched Bezos, his brother and two guests into space using liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propellants.
VSS Unity, on the other hand, used a hybrid propellant comprised of a solid carbon-based fuel, hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene (HTPB), and nitrous oxide (or laughing gas), while the SpaceX Falcon series of reusable rockets will propel the Crew Dragon into orbit using liquid kerosene and liquid oxygen.
Burning these propellants provides the energy needed to launch rockets into space — but it simultaneously generates greenhouse gases and air pollutants. Large quantities of water vapor are also produced by burning the BE-3 propellant, while combustion of both the VSS Unity and Falcon fuels produces CO2, soot and some water vapor. The nitrogen-based oxidant used by VSS Unity also generates nitrogen oxides, compounds that contribute to air pollution closer to Earth. Roughly two-thirds of this propellant exhaust is released into the stratosphere (12 km-50 km) and mesosphere (50 km-85 km), where it can persist for at least two to three years.
The very high temperatures during launch and re-entry (which is when the protective heat shields of the returning crafts burn up) also convert stable nitrogen in the air into reactive nitrogen oxides. These gases and particles have many negative effects on the atmosphere. In the stratosphere, nitrogen oxides and chemicals formed from the breakdown of water vapor convert ozone into oxygen and deplete the ozone layer which guards life on Earth against harmful UV radiation.
Water vapor also produces stratospheric clouds that provide a surface for this reaction to occur at a faster pace than it otherwise would.
Space tourism and climate change
What’s more, CO2 exhaust emissions and soot trap heat in the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. Cooling of the atmosphere can also occur, as clouds formed from the emitted water vapor reflect incoming sunlight back to space. A depleted ozone layer would also absorb less incoming sunlight, and so heat the stratosphere less.
Figuring out the overall effect of rocket launches on the atmosphere will require detailed modeling, in order to account for these complex processes and the persistence of these pollutants in the upper atmosphere. Equally important is a clear understanding of how the space tourism industry will develop.
Virgin Galactic anticipates it will offer 400 spaceflights each year to the privileged few who can afford them. Blue Origin and SpaceX have yet to announce their plans. But globally, rocket launches wouldn’t need to increase by much from the current 100 or so performed each year to induce harmful effects that are competitive with other sources , like ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), and CO2 from aircraft.
During launch, rockets can emit between 4 and 10 times more nitrogen oxides than Drax , the largest thermal power plant in the UK, over the same time period. CO2 emissions for the four or so tourists on a space flight will be between 50 and 100 times more than the one to three tonnes of emissions that are generated per passenger on a long-haul airplane flight.
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article .
What are the origins of spaceflight? It all started with science fiction. Watch the full Talk to learn more:
About the author
Eloise Marais is an Associate Professor in Physical Geography at UCL. Marais leads a research group that addresses long-standing uncertainties about the chemical composition of the atmosphere and determines the influence of humans on the environment, air quality and climate.
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Jeff Bezos is moving to Miami after 29 years in Seattle
- Amazon founder Jeff Bezos announced on Thursday he is moving to Miami from Seattle.
- Bezos said he's moving to be closer to his parents and to Blue Origins' operations.
- Last month, Bezos snapped up a seven-bedroom mansion in Indian Creek, Florida, for $79 million.
Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, is moving to Miami just three weeks after snapping up a seven-bedroom mansion on a small private island in Biscayne Bay.
The tech tycoon — who has been based in Seattle since 1994 — said he's making the move to be closer to his parents and to Blue Origin's operations in Cape Canaveral, Florida. He announced the move on his Instagram account Thursday.
"I've lived in Seattle longer than I've lived anywhere else and have so many amazing memories here. As exciting as the move is, it's an emotional decision for me," Bezos, who is the world's third-richest person with a $161 billion net worth, wrote.
View this post on Instagram A post shared by Jeff Bezos (@jeffbezos)
Bezos' move from Seattle is significant because Amazon transformed the city into a tech hub since opening its headquarters there. Bezos started Amazon in 1994 from the garage of his rented house in Bellevue, Washington, after a road trip from New York to Seattle.
Last month, Bezos snapped up the property in Indian Creek, Florida, for $79 million, Bloomberg reported. The transaction closed on October 12, the real-estate news outlet The Real Deal reported, citing the Multiple Listing Service database.
The property's sales listing says the nearly two-acre mansion exudes "timeless European glamour," and was built in 2000. It features a home theater, a library, a pool, and a wine cellar. The purchase is next to another property Bezos bought this summer for $68 million .
Indian Creek is known as "Billionaire Bunker" for its extremely rich residents. Zillow named it the most expensive neighborhood in the US in 2021.
The private island has stringent security measures and is heavily guarded, Insider's Hannah Towey reported in December 2022 after a tour of the area. Residents also include the investor Carl Icahn, Jared Kushner, and Ivanka Trump.
Amazon and Bezos did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider sent outside regular business hours.
Thursday, November 3, 11.02 a.m.: This story has been updated with Bezos' updated net worth, details of his real-estate purchase in Indian Creek, and background on Amazon's founding.
Watch: Jeff Bezos reportedly just spent $165 million on a Beverly Hills estate — here are all the ways the world's richest man makes and spends his money
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How long will jeff bezos continue to subsidize his new shepard rocket, "it's definitely a money loser. always has been.".
Eric Berger - Nov 3, 2023 4:06 pm UTC
Virgin Galactic smoothly completed its sixth human spaceflight in six months on Thursday, continuing an impressive cadence of missions with its VSS Unity spacecraft. This performance has made the company the clear leader in suborbital space tourism.
A key question is where this leaves the other company with a launch system capable of carrying private astronauts above the atmosphere: Blue Origin. That company's New Shepard rocket and spacecraft have been grounded since an engine failure nearly 14 months ago. During that uncrewed flight, the rocket broke apart, but the capsule safely parachuted to the West Texas desert.
Blue Origin finished its accident analysis this spring and implemented a fix to the issue, including design changes to the BE-3 engine combustion chamber. In May, the company said it planned to return to flight "soon." Then, in September, the Federal Aviation Administration closed its mishap investigation . So where is New Shepard?
The company originally targeted an uncrewed return-to-flight mission in early October, two sources told Ars . This flight was to carry the scientific experiments on board the ill-fated New Shepard-23 to give them a second opportunity to try to reach space and undergo microgravity conditions. Assuming all went well, a crewed mission was to follow in February 2024.
However, October has come and gone. Asked when New Shepard will launch, a Blue Origin spokesperson told Ars, "We’re preparing for flight and plan to return later this year."
That is consistent with what some members of the Blue Origin team are now working toward. The most recent delay, according to a source at the company, was caused by an issue with certifying an engine part intended for flight.
It is too strong to characterize the New Shepard rocket and spacecraft as a vanity program for Blue Origin and its founder, Jeff Bezos. After all, the company has learned some valuable lessons about vertical landing and rocket reuse that it will apply to the much larger New Glenn rocket. However, after New Shepard gave Bezos his much-desired ride to space in 2021, it's worth contemplating the purpose of the program going forward.
Does New Shepard have a future?
Of Blue Origin's approximately 11,000 employees, about 400 people spend part or all of their time working on New Shepard. That is a small fraction of the company's overall workforce, but factoring in salaries, benefits, and programmatic expenses, a reasonable estimate is that New Shepard costs Blue Origin about $100 million a year to maintain and operate.
Prior to the accident, the program averaged a flight roughly every eight to 10 weeks. Even doubling that cadence, it is very unlikely that New Shepard would come close to being revenue-neutral. As one person familiar with the company's finances told Ars, "It's definitely a money loser. Always has been." Another person told Ars that New Shepard is "hemorrhaging" money.
New Shepard is just one of many lines of business being pursued by Blue Origin. There is competition within the company for resources to build engines, big rockets, lunar landers, and even a space station. At Virgin Galactic, there is only suborbital space tourism. In other words, Blue Origin could end New Shepard and still be a major space company. At Virgin, it's the whole enchilada.
In December, a new chief executive will take the reins at Blue Origin, an Amazon veteran named Dave Limp, who has Bezos' trust. When he was hired, Bezos gave Limp a clear mandate: move faster. In particular, Bezos wants Blue Origin to deliver on the large New Glenn rocket and lunar lander for the Artemis Program. One way to cut costs and move faster would be to take the talented and experienced engineers on New Shepard and allocate them to the rocket and lander programs.
It's impossible to know what is in Bezos' mind, of course. Ultimately, it will be his decision about whether New Shepard continues to fly. The program, which is managed in Washington state and flown out of West Texas, will last as long as he cares to subsidize it. But it is perhaps notable that Bezos just announced he is moving from Washington to Miami. Florida has no capital gains taxes (which is important when you're selling Amazon stock to fund Blue Origin on the regular), his parents are there, and his partner Lauren Sanchez loves the beach.
Miami is also closer to Cape Canaveral, where the action is for Blue Origin's rocket and lunar lander activities. "Blue Origin's operations are increasingly shifting to Cape Canaveral," Bezos wrote on Instagram.
And it is pretty far from West Texas.
Channel ars technica.
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So long, Seattle: Amazon founder Jeff Bezos says he is moving to Miami
Billionaire makes ‘emotional decision’ to return to childhood home to be near parents and Blue Origin space business
The Amazon founder Jeff Bezos said on Thursday he was moving to his childhood home of Miami from Seattle to be near his parents and his space firm Blue Origin’s Cape Canaveral operations.
“As exciting as the move is, it’s an emotional decision for me. Seattle, you will always have a piece of my heart,” the billionaire said in an Instagram post on Thursday.
The post included a video of Bezos in Amazon’s first office in Seattle, where he founded the e-commerce company out of his garage in 1994 and grew it into one of the biggest retailers in the world.
Private space company Blue Origin’s operations are increasingly shifting to Cape Canaveral, Bezos added.
Amazon’s rapid growth transformed Seattle’s South Lake Union district, replacing warehouses and parking lots with office towers, highly paid tech workers and expensive eateries. The growth contributed to an economic boom and rising rents.
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Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is leaving Seattle for Miami
- Amazon founder Jeff Bezos announced late Thursday that he plans to leave Seattle and move to Miami.
- Bezos founded Amazon in 1994, then just an online bookseller, out of the garage of his rental home in a Seattle suburb.
- Bezos said the move will allow him to be closer to his parents, partner Lauren Sanchez and his space company Blue Origin.
In this article
Jeff Bezos, who founded Amazon out of his Seattle garage in 1994 , is leaving the city and moving to Miami to be near his parents and his space company Blue Origin.
Bezos announced the decision in an Instagram post late Thursday, which included a video of him touring one of Amazon's earliest offices, the garage of his rented home in the Seattle suburb of Bellevue, Washington. It was there that Bezos in 1995 launched Amazon as an online bookseller, before transforming the company into a retail and cloud computing giant.
"I've lived in Seattle longer than I've lived anywhere else and have so many amazing memories here," Bezos wrote. "As exciting as the move is, it's an emotional decision for me. Seattle, you will always have a piece of my heart."
Amazon's rapid growth reshaped Seattle, particularly its South Lake Union area, where the company's headquarters sits. Its rise helped turn Seattle into a tech hub, leading to an influx of highly paid tech workers, but also higher rents and homelessness.
Bezos stepped down as Amazon's CEO in 2021 , turning the helm over to former cloud boss Andy Jassy. Bezos transitioned to executive chair of Amazon's board.
After stepping down as Amazon CEO, Bezos has spent more time on personal ambitions such as the Earth Fund and Blue Origin, as well as the Washington Post, which he acquired in 2013.
His presence has extended beyond Seattle for some time. Bezos recently spent $150 million for two adjoining properties in Miami's Indian Creek Village, often referred to as the "billionaire bunker." He owns other properties around the world.
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Jeff Bezos to leave Seattle for Miami
By Elizabeth Napolitano
November 3, 2023 / 12:04 PM EDT / MoneyWatch
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is moving to the Sunshine State.
In a sentimental Instagram post Thursday, which included old footage of the very first Amazon office located in Bezos' former garage in the Seattle suburb of Bellevue, the billionaire said he's moving to Miami. His reasons for relocating include a desire to be closer to his parents; his partner, Lauren Sanchez; and Cape Canaveral, where operations for his space exploration company Blue Origin "are increasingly shifting," according to the post.
"As exciting as the move is, it's an emotional decision for me," Bezos said in the post. "Seattle, you will always have a piece of my heart."
View this post on Instagram A post shared by Jeff Bezos (@jeffbezos)
Bezos established Amazon in Seattle in 1994, contributing to the city's transformation into a vibrant technology hub. He helmed the company until 2021, at which time he stepped down as CEO to focus on other ventures, such as his aerospace company.
Influx of billionaires
Bezos' cross-country move comes months after the billionaire bought two South Florida mansions worth $79 million and $68 million, respectively, Bloomberg reported .
However, being close to friends and family won't be the only perk to living in Miami for Bezos. The move could also save him loads of money on taxes.
Washington State, where Bezos currently lives, recently passed a 7% tax on capital gains, which could cost wealthy individuals like Bezos millions, according to the state's Department of Revenue. Under that new tax, Bezos would owe $70 million in state taxes for every $1 billion of Amazon stock he sells, according to CNBC Wealth Reporter Robert Frank.
By comparison, Florida is one of nine states that does not have state income or capital gains taxes, according to Investopedia .
Several other ultra-wealthy individuals have recently made the move to Miami to take advantage of the state's generous tax laws. Last year, Ken Griffin, the wealthiest man in Illinois, moved his family and his Chicago-based hedge fund to Miami . Hedge fund tycoons Dan Loeb and Josh Harris have also purchased palatial mansions in Miami Beach in recent years, Insider reported .
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Jeff Bezos Says He Is Leaving Seattle for Miami
The Amazon founder has lived in Seattle since 1994. He said he was returning to Miami, where he attended high school, in part to be closer to his parents.
By Mike Ives
Jeff Bezos, who founded Amazon out of his Seattle garage in 1994 and plowed billions of dollars into transforming the city into a tech boomtown, said on Thursday that he was leaving his home of three decades and moving to Miami.
Mr. Bezos, 59, announced his move in an Instagram post on Thursday night. He said his parents had recently moved back to Miami, where he attended high school, and that he wanted to be closer to them and to his partner, Lauren Sánchez.
Another factor, he said, was that operations for his rocket company, Blue Origin , are increasingly shifting to Cape Canaveral, Fla., just over 200 miles by road north of Miami along the state’s Atlantic coast.
Bloomberg News reported last month that Mr. Bezos had purchased a mansion in South Florida for $79 million, a few months after buying a neighboring one for $68 million. Mr. Bezos is worth $161 billion, making him the world’s third-richest person, according to Bloomberg.
Mr. Bezos said in his Instagram post that he had “amazing memories” of Seattle and had lived there longer than anywhere else. “As exciting as the move is, it’s an emotional decision for me,” he wrote. “Seattle, you will always have a piece of my heart.”
A brief video that Mr. Bezos posted with his Instagram announcement shows him giving a tour of Amazon’s first office, a humble affair based out of his Seattle garage. The room has a few giant white computers, a dry-erase board covered in writing and a fax machine sitting atop a gray filing cabinet.
“See this big orange extension cord?” a young Mr. Bezos, wearing jeans and in good spirits, says at one point to the cameraman, his father. “This is one of the contraptions we have to have because there’s not enough power in this room. So we have to bring in some extra circuit breakers.”
“And, uh, that’s about it,” he says at the end of the video, over the sound of a dog barking. “It doesn’t take long to tour the offices of Amazon-dot-com Inc.”
It was not immediately clear late Thursday how the people of Seattle or Miami felt about his move.
As Amazon grew over the years into a colossus of internet commerce, becoming the world’s largest retail seller outside China in 2021, it poured billions of dollars into Seattle’s economy and helped to reshape its global reputation .
But Amazon has faced pushback from workers and regulators over its labor practices and corporate tactics. And Mr. Bezos, who owns The Washington Post and the world’s largest sailing yacht , among other things, has plenty of detractors in Seattle and beyond .
While Mr. Bezos’ move to Miami might come as a surprise to some, it is hardly unique. In fact, he may arrive fashionably late. In early 2021, less than a year after the coronavirus pandemic upended daily life for millions of Americans, The New York Times reported on the stampede of Silicon Valley techies and Wall Street titans moving to Miami.
At the time, dozens of big-name leaders relocated: Keith Rabois, a PayPal co-founder and investor; Peter Thiel, the tech investor and prominent conservative; Jon Oringer, founder of the stock-photography provider Shutterstock; Bryan Goldberg, the media mogul, and plenty of others.
Francis X. Suarez, the city’s mayor, welcomed the newcomers with open arms. The rich and wealthy have long gravitated to Miami to enjoy their fortunes and, on days off, their time on the water. In the pandemic, it was unclear if these newcomers were just the latest generation to do so, or if they would really build new companies in the city.
Though the rush of the past three years leveled out, demand has remained relatively steady in South Florida, real estate brokers say .
Mike Ives is a reporter for The Times based in Seoul, covering breaking news around the world. More about Mike Ives
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The Moscow Metro Museum of Art: 10 Must-See Stations
There are few times one can claim having been on the subway all afternoon and loving it, but the Moscow Metro provides just that opportunity. While many cities boast famous public transport systems—New York’s subway, London’s underground, San Salvador’s chicken buses—few warrant hours of exploration. Moscow is different: Take one ride on the Metro, and you’ll find out that this network of railways can be so much more than point A to B drudgery.
The Metro began operating in 1935 with just thirteen stations, covering less than seven miles, but it has since grown into the world’s third busiest transit system ( Tokyo is first ), spanning about 200 miles and offering over 180 stops along the way. The construction of the Metro began under Joseph Stalin’s command, and being one of the USSR’s most ambitious building projects, the iron-fisted leader instructed designers to create a place full of svet (radiance) and svetloe budushchee (a radiant future), a palace for the people and a tribute to the Mother nation.
Consequently, the Metro is among the most memorable attractions in Moscow. The stations provide a unique collection of public art, comparable to anything the city’s galleries have to offer and providing a sense of the Soviet era, which is absent from the State National History Museum. Even better, touring the Metro delivers palpable, experiential moments, which many of us don’t get standing in front of painting or a case of coins.
Though tours are available , discovering the Moscow Metro on your own provides a much more comprehensive, truer experience, something much less sterile than following a guide. What better place is there to see the “real” Moscow than on mass transit: A few hours will expose you to characters and caricatures you’ll be hard-pressed to find dining near the Bolshoi Theater. You become part of the attraction, hear it in the screech of the train, feel it as hurried commuters brush by: The Metro sucks you beneath the city and churns you into the mix.
With the recommendations of our born-and-bred Muscovite students, my wife Emma and I have just taken a self-guided tour of what some locals consider the top ten stations of the Moscow Metro. What most satisfied me about our Metro tour was the sense of adventure . I loved following our route on the maps of the wagon walls as we circled the city, plotting out the course to the subsequent stops; having the weird sensation of being underground for nearly four hours; and discovering the next cavern of treasures, playing Indiana Jones for the afternoon, piecing together fragments of Russia’s mysterious history. It’s the ultimate interactive museum.
Top Ten Stations (In order of appearance)
Kievskaya Station went public in March of 1937, the rails between it and Park Kultury Station being the first to cross the Moscow River. Kievskaya is full of mosaics depicting aristocratic scenes of Russian life, with great cameo appearances by Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin. Each work has a Cyrillic title/explanation etched in the marble beneath it; however, if your Russian is rusty, you can just appreciate seeing familiar revolutionary dates like 1905 ( the Russian Revolution ) and 1917 ( the October Revolution ).
Mayakovskaya Station ranks in my top three most notable Metro stations. Mayakovskaya just feels right, done Art Deco but no sense of gaudiness or pretention. The arches are adorned with rounded chrome piping and create feeling of being in a jukebox, but the roof’s expansive mosaics of the sky are the real showstopper. Subjects cleverly range from looking up at a high jumper, workers atop a building, spires of Orthodox cathedrals, to nimble aircraft humming by, a fleet of prop planes spelling out CCCP in the bluest of skies.
Novoslobodskaya is the Metro’s unique stained glass station. Each column has its own distinctive panels of colorful glass, most of them with a floral theme, some of them capturing the odd sailor, musician, artist, gardener, or stenographer in action. The glass is framed in Art Deco metalwork, and there is the lovely aspect of discovering panels in the less frequented haunches of the hall (on the trackside, between the incoming staircases). Novosblod is, I’ve been told, the favorite amongst out-of-town visitors.
Komsomolskaya Station is one of palatial grandeur. It seems both magnificent and obligatory, like the presidential palace of a colonial city. The yellow ceiling has leafy, white concrete garland and a series of golden military mosaics accenting the tile mosaics of glorified Russian life. Switching lines here, the hallway has an Alice-in-Wonderland feel, impossibly long with decorative tile walls, culminating in a very old station left in a remarkable state of disrepair, offering a really tangible glimpse behind the palace walls.
Dostoevskaya is a tribute to the late, great hero of Russian literature . The station at first glance seems bare and unimpressive, a stark marble platform without a whiff of reassembled chips of tile. However, two columns have eerie stone inlay collages of scenes from Dostoevsky’s work, including The Idiot , The Brothers Karamazov , and Crime and Punishment. Then, standing at the center of the platform, the marble creates a kaleidoscope of reflections. At the entrance, there is a large, inlay portrait of the author.
Chkalovskaya does space Art Deco style (yet again). Chrome borders all. Passageways with curvy overhangs create the illusion of walking through the belly of a chic, new-age spacecraft. There are two (kos)mosaics, one at each end, with planetary subjects. Transferring here brings you above ground, where some rather elaborate metalwork is on display. By name similarity only, I’d expected Komsolskaya Station to deliver some kosmonaut décor; instead, it was Chkalovskaya that took us up to the space station.
Elektrozavodskaya is full of marble reliefs of workers, men and women, laboring through the different stages of industry. The superhuman figures are round with muscles, Hollywood fit, and seemingly undeterred by each Herculean task they respectively perform. The station is chocked with brass, from hammer and sickle light fixtures to beautiful, angular framework up the innards of the columns. The station’s art pieces are less clever or extravagant than others, but identifying the different stages of industry is entertaining.
Baumanskaya Station is the only stop that wasn’t suggested by the students. Pulling in, the network of statues was just too enticing: Out of half-circle depressions in the platform’s columns, the USSR’s proud and powerful labor force again flaunts its success. Pilots, blacksmiths, politicians, and artists have all congregated, posing amongst more Art Deco framing. At the far end, a massive Soviet flag dons the face of Lenin and banners for ’05, ’17, and ‘45. Standing in front of the flag, you can play with the echoing roof.
Ploshchad Revolutsii Station
Novokuznetskaya Station finishes off this tour, more or less, where it started: beautiful mosaics. This station recalls the skyward-facing pieces from Mayakovskaya (Station #2), only with a little larger pictures in a more cramped, very trafficked area. Due to a line of street lamps in the center of the platform, it has the atmosphere of a bustling market. The more inventive sky scenes include a man on a ladder, women picking fruit, and a tank-dozer being craned in. The station’s also has a handsome black-and-white stone mural.
Here is a map and a brief description of our route:
Start at (1)Kievskaya on the “ring line” (look for the squares at the bottom of the platform signs to help you navigate—the ring line is #5, brown line) and go north to Belorusskaya, make a quick switch to the Dark Green/#2 line, and go south one stop to (2)Mayakovskaya. Backtrack to the ring line—Brown/#5—and continue north, getting off at (3)Novosblodskaya and (4)Komsolskaya. At Komsolskaya Station, transfer to the Red/#1 line, go south for two stops to Chistye Prudy, and get on the Light Green/#10 line going north. Take a look at (5)Dostoevskaya Station on the northern segment of Light Green/#10 line then change directions and head south to (6)Chkalovskaya, which offers a transfer to the Dark Blue/#3 line, going west, away from the city center. Have a look (7)Elektroskaya Station before backtracking into the center of Moscow, stopping off at (8)Baumskaya, getting off the Dark Blue/#3 line at (9)Ploschad Revolyutsii. Change to the Dark Green/#2 line and go south one stop to see (10)Novokuznetskaya Station.
Check out our new Moscow Indie Travel Guide , book a flight to Moscow and read 10 Bars with Views Worth Blowing the Budget For
Jonathon Engels, formerly a patron saint of misadventure, has been stumbling his way across cultural borders since 2005 and is currently volunteering in the mountains outside of Antigua, Guatemala. For more of his work, visit his website and blog .
Photo credits: SergeyRod , all others courtesy of the author and may not be used without permission