It’s mission accomplished for Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin, the billionaire Amazon founder’s space travel company that carried the oldest, the youngest and the richest humans to have ever flown in space.
Blue Origin’s fully automated New Shepard rocket blasted off Tuesday from West Texas carrying Bezos, the world’s richest person; his brother Mark Bezos; aerospace pioneer Wally Funk, 82; and Oliver Daemen, an 18-year-old from the Netherlands.
“You have a very happy crew up here, I want you to know,” a male’s voice could be heard saying as the rocket soared amid a chorus of “woo hoo” thrill-ride whoops.
The four passengers were given three to four minutes to unbuckle their seatbelts and float around the capsule once they neared the edge of space.
The booster was the first to return to earth, completing a vertical landing at the launch pad roughly seven minutes after takeoff. The crew members and New Shepard landed softly, slowed by parachutes, a few minutes later.
Bezos was seen waving and giving a thumbs-up through a window of the capsule while preparing to disembark after successfully landing. The astronauts were enthusiastically greeted by friends, family, crew members and bottles of champagne. Among those present was Bezos’ girlfriend Lauren Sánchez.
The launch marked the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. It comes just days after billionaire businessman Richard Branson on July 11 flew to the edge of space, an altitude of around 50 miles, before returning to earth. New Shepard aimed to hit an altitude of roughly 66 miles.
Daemen is Blue Origin’s first paying customer. Funk is finally getting her trip six decades after training with 12 other female pilots, known as Mercury 13, for such a ride in the early 1960s. Funk takes the title for oldest person to fly to space from the late astronaut John Glenn, who flew to space for the last time at the age of 77.
Tuesday’s launch is the first by Blue Origin to feature people on board. The company has been testing its rocket since 2012 and says it has had 15 successful consecutive launches, including three successful escape tests.
Blue Origin plans two more passenger flights this year.