The Commercial Space Age Is Here
February 12, 2021
June 13, 2021
omeone just won the right to fly into space with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos on July 20, after submitting a winning auction bid of $28 million. The name of the winning bidder will be released in the coming days after paperwork is finalized, the company says. The bid will be donated to the company’s philanthropic organization, Club for the Future, which promotes STEM education.
Sealed bidding for the seat began on May 5, and two weeks later bids were unsealed and continued to rise in a silent auction until Saturday’s live event. During the silent portion of the auction, on June 7, Jeff Bezos announced that he himself would be taking the ride with the auction winner, along with his brother Mark and an as yet unnamed fourth person. Bids jumped at that point, reaching $4.8 million before the event began.
There were “dozens” of people working the phones for the live bids, the company said. It was triple the number that RR Auction, who Blue Origin worked with, would typically employ for a multi-million dollar bid due to the number of registered bidders, the company said. Bidding went on fast and furiously for about ten minutes until the final figure was announced.
The spaceflight on July 20 will be the first time Blue Origin sends humans into space, though it has had several uncrewed flights of its rockets over the past few years. The company plans to offer regular tourist flights, which are suborbital, taking passengers up to the Kármán Line, which is generally accepted as the boundary of space, about 62 miles above the Earth’s surface.
Tourists will spend about 10 minutes weightless during their flights, and the New Shepard spacecraft that takes them can seat six, each of which features a window view of space and Earth. Blue Origin has not yet said when tourist flights will begin or what pricing for the tickets will be, though that price is generally expected to be around $500,000. The winning $28 million bid, which was really for the chance to be on the first flight, is only a little less than the $35 million billionaire Guy Laliberté paid in 2009 to go to the space station.
Blue Origin won’t have the only space tourist flights this year, however. The Richard Branson-founded space company, Virgin Galactic, recently had a successful first flight in a series of crucial test flights over the next few months that will open the door for its customers to finally lift off to suborbital space. One of those test flights will include billionaire Richard Branson himself.
Two other billionaires are also slated to make space tourist trips this year. Billionaire Jared Isaacman’s “Inspiration 4” mission, will send four private citizens, including Isaacman, on an orbital flight in a SpaceX Dragon capsule this September. And in December, billionaire Yusaku Maezawa is taking a trip to the International Space Station. In January 2022, the first all-private crew will visit the space station in a joint mission between SpaceX and Axiom Space, which will cost the four crew members $55 million each.
Even as space tourism starts to gear up for real over the next months, if you want to take a trip yourself and have the money for it, be prepared for a wait, say analysts at Morgan Stanley, who wrote in a research note last week that they “believe demand for space tourism will substantially exceed supply/capacity for flights for several years to come and is a sign of validation of the core business model.”
Image Source: Getty Images
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