The world’s richest man Jeff Bezos invoked Neil Armstrong on Tuesday as he returned from space after completing the first commercial flight on a rocket he funded, describing it as a ‘tiny little step’ in his masterplan to build a road to space where he thinks the world’s major industries will be able to operate in the future to save planet Earth.     

Bezos and the crew of Blue Origin took off from their base at Van Horn, Texas, at 9.12am EST on Tuesday, the 52nd anniversary of the moon landing, 12 minutes behind schedule. They ascended for four minutes before the New Shepard rocket booster separated from their capsule, leaving them floating in zero gravity for four minutes. 

Bezos and Mark floated about, pretended to swim and tossed skittles in each other’s mouths while in the air, they said afterwards. They had written ‘Hi’ and ‘Mom’ on their palms and put their hands together for their mother Jacklyn while in space. 

They were joined by 18-year-old Oliver Daemen – the word’s first paying customer to buy his flight – and 82-year-old Wally Funk, who passed NASA’s space program in the 1960s but never made it to space because the women’s flight was canceled.  

They then returned to earth with parachutes controlling the pace of their descent, touching down in the Texas desert at 9.22am EST, 10 minutes and 20 seconds after liftoff. 

They were greeted by a cheering crowd that included Bezos’ girlfriend Lauren Sanchez, his children, sister, Mark’s wife and Oliver’s millionaire parents. They traveled 66 miles above the surface of Earth – 13 miles higher than Virgin Galactic billionaire Branson. He tweeted his congratulations to the team afterwards. 

Bezos, the world’s richest man worth $214billion, spent $5.5billion on the mission through his space travel company Blue Origin. His goal is to move the world’s major industries that are damaging the planet to space in order to preserve Earth’s environment.  

At a press conference after the flight, he said: ‘For every amazon customer, you guys paid for all this so thank you from the bottom of my heart.’ 

Bezos revealed he has already sold $100million in tickets for future flights. Blue Origin will perform another two commercial flights this year using the same capsule but different boosters. 

At the press conference, Bezos also announced that he had created a new philanthropic award of $100million and the first winner is CNN anchor Van Jones, who has a prison reform non-profit. 

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Jeff Bezos and his brother Mark hold up their palms to spell out 'Hi Mom' while floating in space in their capsule on Tuesday during their 10 minute space flight, the first commercial flight in history

Jeff Bezos and his brother Mark hold up their palms to spell out ‘Hi Mom’ while floating in space in their capsule on Tuesday during their 10 minute space flight, the first commercial flight in history 

Bezos floats in space after being launched 66 miles into space on Tuesday morning by the New Shepard rocket

Bezos floats in space after being launched 66 miles into space on Tuesday morning by the New Shepard rocket 

Jeff Bezos tosses a skittle into the mouth of 18-year-odl Oliver Daemen as the Blue Origin crew float in space on Tuesday

Jeff Bezos tosses a skittle into the mouth of 18-year-odl Oliver Daemen as the Blue Origin crew float in space on Tuesday 

The New Shepard launched at 9.12am EST on Tuesday, 12 minutes after schedule. At 9.16am EST - four minutes later - the booster separated from the capsule, where the four crew members floated in zero gravity for four minutes before starting their descent. First, three parachutes deployed then another three before the capsule touched back down in the Texas desert at 9.22am EST

The New Shepard launched at 9.12am EST on Tuesday, 12 minutes after schedule. At 9.16am EST – four minutes later – the booster separated from the capsule, where the four crew members floated in zero gravity for four minutes before starting their descent. First, three parachutes deployed then another three before the capsule touched back down in the Texas desert at 9.22am EST 

It’s unclear how he will use the money but Jones, speaking at the event, said: ‘Sometimes dreams come true. Sometimes dreams come true.’ 

The headlines around the world should be anything is possible if you believe. Lauren and Jeff don’t do nothing small – they just don’t do it. They dream big, they love big, they bet big. You bet on me and I appreciate it.’  

Wally Funk joined the pair along with Dutch teen Oliver Daemen, the first person ever to have paid to travel to space.  Funk, at the press conference afterwards, thanked Bezos for finally getting her to space. 

‘I want to thank you sweetheart- you made it possible for me. I’ve been waiting a long time to finally get up there… I loved it. I want to go again!’ 

Bezos gifted Wally Funk the goggles that Amelia Earhart wore to fly solo over the Atlantic Ocean. He gave his mother a feather that he wore on a necklace on the flight. 

Oliver’s private equity boss father was the runner-up in an auction for the seat, the winner of which withdrew after dropping $28million for his fare. 

The crew experienced weightlessness for about four minutes, before falling back to Earth to land in Texas. While the crew were enjoying their time in space, the booster returned to the landing pad for use on a future flight.

During the weightlessness time you could clearly hear Wally Funk shouting ‘it is dark up here’, followed by a status check call from each of the four, with Jeff Bezos having to remind Wally and Oliver to confirm.  

The rocket launched at 9.12am EST, 12 minutes behind schedule

The rocket launched at 9.12am EST, 12 minutes behind schedule 

The Blue Shepard launches the capsule carrying Jeff Bezos and three other passengers into space on Tuesday, 25 seconds after lift off

The Blue Shepard launches the capsule carrying Jeff Bezos and three other passengers into space on Tuesday, 25 seconds after lift off

This is the moment the booster separated from the capsule at 283,595 ft - 53 miles above ground

This is the moment the booster separated from the capsule at 283,595 ft – 53 miles above ground

This is the moment the rocket booster returned to ground after successfully launching the capsule and separating from it

This is the moment the rocket booster returned to ground after successfully launching the capsule and separating from it 

The capsule descended without parachutes for a brief moment on Tuesday before the first three were deployed

The capsule descended without parachutes for a brief moment on Tuesday before the first three were deployed

Jeff Bezos and the rest of crew Blue Origin return to earth in their capsule as it descends with three blue parachutes slowing its pace on Tuesday

Jeff Bezos and the rest of crew Blue Origin return to earth in their capsule as it descends with three blue parachutes slowing its pace on Tuesday

The capsule had to be 'charged' before the astronauts could exit. This involved sending a large static charge to 'ground it'. It touched down 10 minutes and 19 seconds after lift-off

The capsule had to be ‘charged’ before the astronauts could exit. This involved sending a large static charge to ‘ground it’. It touched down 10 minutes and 19 seconds after lift-off

Lauren Sanchez kisses Jeff Bezos on the cheek after he touches down in Van Horn, Texas, after returning from space on New Shepard on Tuesday morning with Wally Funk, far right, Oliver Daemen, far left, and his brother Mark, not shown. Mark's wife is shown approaching Wally in white to celebrate the successful space flight

Lauren Sanchez kisses Jeff Bezos on the cheek after he touches down in Van Horn, Texas, after returning from space on New Shepard on Tuesday morning with Wally Funk, far right, Oliver Daemen, far left, and his brother Mark, not shown. Mark’s wife is shown approaching Wally in white to celebrate the successful space flight 

Dutch teenager Oliver Daemen became the youngest person to ever travel to space after the Blue Origin flight. He is shown celebrating with Sanchez, Bezos' girlfriend, after they touched down

Dutch teenager Oliver Daemen became the youngest person to ever travel to space after the Blue Origin flight. He is shown celebrating with Sanchez, Bezos’ girlfriend, after they touched down 

Daemen hugged his parents after landing before being given a hug by Bezos' girlfriend Sanchez (shown)

Daemen hugged his parents after landing before being given a hug by Bezos’ girlfriend Sanchez (shown) 

Jeff Bezos hugs his mother Jacklyn after returning to earth with his crew mates on Tuesday morning

Jeff Bezos hugs his mother Jacklyn after returning to earth with his crew mates on Tuesday morning 

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is awarded his Blue Origin pin on Tuesday after completing the first successful commercial flight to space on board a rocket he paid to build

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is awarded his Blue Origin pin on Tuesday after completing the first successful commercial flight to space on board a rocket he paid to build 

Oliver Daemen, Mark Bezos, Jeff Bezos and Wally Funk appear at a press conference on Tuesday morning after returning from space

Oliver Daemen, Mark Bezos, Jeff Bezos and Wally Funk appear at a press conference on Tuesday morning after returning from space 

Mark Bezos, the Amazon founder's younger brother, receives his pin after the successful space flight on Tuesday

Mark Bezos, the Amazon founder’s younger brother, receives his pin after the successful space flight on Tuesday 

Wally Funk, 82, is the oldest person to have ever gone to space

Oliver Daemen, 18, is the youngest to have gone to space

Wally Funk, 82, is the oldest person to have ever gone to space and Oliver Daemen, 18, is the youngest to have gone to space

Bezos announced at the press conference that he'd already sold $100million in tickets for future flights and that Blue Origin will do another two flights this year

Bezos announced at the press conference that he’d already sold $100million in tickets for future flights and that Blue Origin will do another two flights this year

Sir Richard Branson tweeted his congratulations to the fellow astronauts after they landed back on Earth.

He said: ‘Well done @blueorigin , @jeffbezos , Mark, Wally and Oliver. Impressive! Very best to all the crew from me and all the team at @virgingalactic.’

Jeff Bezos’ girlfriend Lauren Sanchez planted a kiss on her billionaire beau just moments after he safely returned to earth this morning following his successful space launch.

The 51-year-old was spotted hugging and kissing her Amazon founder boyfriend soon after he emerged from the capsule in Texas on Tuesday morning. 

Bezos could also be seen hugging his sister Christine immediately after stepping from the capsule before then turning to his girlfriend.

The crew walked out to the rocket about 45 minutes before launch, stepping into a capsule that has 10 times the volume of the one Alan Shepard used to become the first American in space. 

Wally Funk says she is looking forward to all aspects of the flight, from liftoff, flight and being able to look out the window at Earth. She plans to take a photo of herself with the American flag up to space. 

Bezos' billionaire space race rivals Elon Musk and Richard Branson wished him well before the mission. Branson congratulated him

Bezos’ billionaire space race rivals Elon Musk and Richard Branson wished him well before the mission. Branson congratulated him 

She was one of the first up the stairs to the capsule, excited to finally get to space 62 years after undergoing the same training as the NASA Mercury 7 astronauts in 1959. 

‘Good Morning astronauts and welcome aboard the RSS First Steps’, was the first message heard from Capcom once all four astronauts were strapped into their five point harnesses in the capsule.

This was followed by a communications check, with Jeff Bezos having to remind Wally Funk to ‘press the button’ in order to confirm her comms were working properly. 

Christina Bezos sent a message of support to her brothers as they prepare for their trip to the edge of space, reminding them of time in the car pretending to be the crew of the Enterprise. 

‘We are so excited for this monumental launch, Jeff this is something you’ve dreamed off your whole life,’ she said, adding that Mark is an inspiration.

She said Jeff would play the part of Captain Kirk during a long car ride as children, Mark taking on the role of, Sulu, and ‘I would be and Uhura, as we would battle Klingons while firing torpedoes.

‘Mark fire those torpedoes if ordered to do so,’ she said, adding they should ‘hurry up and get your asses back so I can give you hug, god speed New Shepard.’ 

'Good Morning astronauts and welcome aboard the RSS First Steps', was the first message heard from Capcom onoce all four astronauts were strapped into their five point harnesses in the capsule

‘Good Morning astronauts and welcome aboard the RSS First Steps’, was the first message heard from Capcom onoce all four astronauts were strapped into their five point harnesses in the capsule

The crew walked out to the rocket about 45 minutes before launch, stepping into a capsule that has 10 times the volume of the one Alan Shepard used to become the first American in space

The crew walked out to the rocket about 45 minutes before launch, stepping into a capsule that has 10 times the volume of the one Alan Shepard used to become the first American in space

Wally Funk says she is looking forward to all aspects of the flight, from liftoff, flight and being able to look out the window at Earth. She plans to take a photo of herself with the American flag up to space

Wally Funk says she is looking forward to all aspects of the flight, from liftoff, flight and being able to look out the window at Earth. She plans to take a photo of herself with the American flag up to space

Funk was one of the first up the stairs to the capsule, excited to finally get to space 62 years after undergoing the same training as the NASA Mercury 7 astronauts in 1959

Funk was one of the first up the stairs to the capsule, excited to finally get to space 62 years after undergoing the same training as the NASA Mercury 7 astronauts in 1959

The Amazon founder will fly from Texas with his brother Mark, Dutch teenager Oliver Daemen, who will become the youngest person in space, and former NASA trainee Wally Funk, 82, who will become the oldest

The Amazon founder will fly from Texas with his brother Mark, Dutch teenager Oliver Daemen, who will become the youngest person in space, and former NASA trainee Wally Funk, 82, who will become the oldest

The crewe were driven out to the rocket ahead of launch, after mission control gave the 'go for load' command

The crewe were driven out to the rocket ahead of launch, after mission control gave the ‘go for load’ command

They will go up for about four minutes until the capsule separates from the rocket, float for four minutes, then falls to Earth due to the force of gravity, coming down with the help of parachutes in the Texas desert. 

Funk, an aviation pioneer, was part of the 1960s Women in Space training scheme, until it was shut down during the Cold War. Despite besting some of the Mercury 7 astronaut scores, she never got to go to space.  

She will become the oldest person in space; Daemen, at 18, the youngest; and Bezos, with his $203 billion fortune, the richest person to leave the Earth when they launch from Launch Site One in Van Horn, Texas. 

Before going to space the ‘astronauts’ were put through two days of training, including lessons on what to experience, as well as experiencing the entire launch in a ‘capsule simulator’. 

The New Shepard rocket was rolled out on to the launch pad this morning at Launch Site One in West Texas ready for its historic first crew flight

The New Shepard rocket was rolled out on to the launch pad this morning at Launch Site One in West Texas ready for its historic first crew flight  

The crew of four will move into the capsule before take-off.  Blue Origin is live streaming the launch from 12:30 BST, with the launch scheduled for 14:00 BST

Blue Origin confirmed sales are now open for tickets, with the next few flights already booked up by people who bid in the auction for a seat on this flight. They didn't confirm the cost but it is rumoured to be $200,000

Blue Origin confirmed sales are now open for tickets, with the next few flights already booked up by people who bid in the auction for a seat on this flight. They didn’t confirm the cost but it is rumoured to be $200,000

While only four astronauts are going up on this test flight, future launches will use all six seats, with a ‘crew member seven’ who acts as ‘capcom’ staying connected with the crew throughout the flight

Jeff Bezos will fly into space today with his brother Mark (left), Dutch 18-year-old physics student Oliver Daemen - whose father paid for the flight - and former NASA trainee Wally Funk, 82, who was passed over in the 1960s because she was a woman. She will become the oldest person ever to go to space; Daemen the youngest; and Bezos the richest

Jeff Bezos will fly into space today with his brother Mark (left), Dutch 18-year-old physics student Oliver Daemen – whose father paid for the flight – and former NASA trainee Wally Funk, 82, who was passed over in the 1960s because she was a woman. She will become the oldest person ever to go to space; Daemen the youngest; and Bezos the richest

During training they learn the system, get to know the team and learn procedures such as ingress and egress, but spend most of their time inside the capsule so they can focus on the real experience when they go to space. 

As well as large windows, inside the capsule they have special reclining seats that ‘absorb the G-force’ as the rocket takes them up to three times the pressure felt on the ground, before floating in space.  

Sir Richard Branson, who became the first ‘founder-billionaire’ to fly to space in his own firm’s launch vehicle on July 11, replied to a video shared by Bezos on Instagram to say ‘Best wishes @JeffBezos and the @BlueOrigin crew from all of us at @VirginGalactic.’ 

Elon Musk, founder of competitor SpaceX, wished the Blue Origin team ‘best of luck’ ono Twitter. Musk has purchased a ticket to go to space with Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic. 

Jeff Bezos has been sharing the build up to the big event on his Instagram account, with more details coming from the Blue Origin twitter profile. 

The 57-year-old posted account footage of last minute preparations including a tour of the inside of the capsule, where all appeared relaxed and smiling. Funk looked out the window and beamed. 

Bezos handed out food for the gathered media at the launch site of his New Shepard space rocket on Monday afternoon, while joking with a reporter who asked if it was ‘his last meal’.

‘Did somebody say last meal?’ Bezos responded as he set out the food on a table. ‘I don’t think you have to put it that way!’ he joked, saying ‘let’s talk about it in a different way!’, to laughter from the crowd.

Those inside the capsule will be able to recline and take in the view. They do not have to assist in any way with the mission: it is piloted from the Earth, and they are passengers

Those inside the capsule will be able to recline and take in the view. They do not have to assist in any way with the mission: it is piloted from the Earth, and they are passengers

Blue Origin has provided illustrations of what the capsule will look like in space

Blue Origin has provided illustrations of what the capsule will look like in space

The menu consisted of chicken thighs, mac ‘n’ cheese and black-eyed peas, and is said to be a Bezos ‘family favorite’.

The ‘last meal’ quip came just hours before the billionaire is due to blast off in his Blue Origin rocket for an 11-minute rocket-powered excursion to the edge of space in the first crewed flight of his rocket ship. 

The four will travel in a capsule with the biggest windows flown into space, offering stunning views of the Earth, according to the space tourism company.

It is going to be a competitive market, with some estimates suggesting it could be worth up to seven trillion dollars in future, with tickets costing up to $250,000 initially for a single seat to the edge of space. 

Earlier, Bezos agreed with critics who have described space flights such as his as simply ‘joyrides for the wealthy.’

The menu consisted of chicken thighs, mac 'n' cheese and black-eyed peas which is apparently a 'family favorite'

The menu consisted of chicken thighs, mac ‘n’ cheese and black-eyed peas which is apparently a ‘family favorite’ 

Bezos gave an interview to CNN on Monday where he addressed critics who argue the billionaire should instead be using his money to focus on problems on Earth instead of blasting off into space at a cost of tens of millions of dollars. 

TEAM BLUE ORIGIN: MARK BEZOS, AVIATION HERO WALLY FUNK AND A DUTCH TEEN WHOSE DAD PAID FOR HIS FLIGHT

Oliver Daemen, Wally Funk, Jeff Bezos and Mark Bezos

Oliver Daemen, Wally Funk, Jeff Bezos and Mark Bezos 

Mark Bezos, 53 

The Amazon founder’s brother has a private equity firm HighPost Capital and is also a volunteer firefighter. 

Bezos said they are the ‘closets of friends’ and have spent their whole lives talking about going to space. 

The pair also have a sister, Christina, who is not taking part in the mission. 

He said he was ‘awestruck’ to have been asked by his brother to join him on the flight. 

‘What a remarkable opportunity, not only to have this adventure, but to be able to do it with my best friend.  

Wally Funk, 82 

Funk was one of 13 women who passed NASA’s astronaut training program in the 1960s.

Then a 21-year-old pilot, she was the youngest of the 13 women who passed the same rigorous testing as the Mercury Seven male astronauts in NASA’s program that first sent Americans into space between 1961 and 1963, but were denied the chance to become astronauts themselves because of their gender. 

Funk was one of 13 women who passed NASA's astronaut training program in the 1960s.

Funk was one of 13 women who passed NASA’s astronaut training program in the 1960s.

At 82, she will be the oldest person to go to space on Tuesday. 

She said in an interview about the mission: ‘I didn’t think I’d ever get to go up!’ 

She was also the first female flight instructor at a U.S. military base and the first woman to become an air safety investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board. 

Oliver Daemen, 18 

Oliver Daemen, 18

Oliver Daemen, 18

Daemen is the son of financier Joes Daemen, the founder and CEO of Dutch private equity firm Somerset Capital Partners, who paid for the seat and chose to let fly Oliver instead.

‘I am super excited to go to space,’ Oliver said in a video message. ‘I’ve been dreaming about this all my life and I will become the youngest astronaut ever because I’m 18 years old. I am super excited to experience zero G.

Oliver will be the ‘first paying customer’ Blue Origin said in an email, flying to the edge of space, alongside Bezos, his brother Mark, aviation pioneer Mary Wallace ‘Wally’ Funk and two other passengers.

The company said Oliver ‘has been fascinated by space, the Moon and rockets since he was four’.

A Blue Origin spokesperson told DailyMail.com they are not disclosing the price paid for Oliver’s seat, but confirmed he participated in the auction.

‘There have been a chorus of critics saying that these flights to space are just joyrides for the wealthy and that you should be spending your time and your money and energy trying to solve problems here on Earth. So what do you say to those critics?’ asked CNN’s Rachel Crane.

‘Well, I say they’re largely right. We have to do both,’ Bezos responded. 

‘We have lots of problems here and now on Earth and we need to work on those, and we always need to look to the future. We’ve always done that as a species, as a civilization. We have to do both.’ 

Bezos explained that Blue Origin’s mission was to practice ‘operational space travel’ so that it might become comparable to commercial airline travel.

‘If we can do that then we’ll be building a road to space for the next generations to do amazing things there, and those amazing things will solve problems here on Earth…So, the real answer is, yes, we have to do both.’

The mission comes just over a week after fellow billionaire Richard Branson successfully launched into space aboard a winged rocket ship developed by his company Virgin Galactic.   

To prepare for the historic launch, on the 52nd anniversary of the first moon landing, they had to test every aspect of the rocket ‘far beyond operational testing’ to ensure it is both robust and safe.

All four of the crew to travel aboard New Shepherd are at Launch Site One ready for the trip, with Bezos warmly welcoming Funk and Daemen to the facility in a video uploaded to his Instagram account.

The rocket has been successfully flown 15 times, but this will be the first with humans on board. 

On Monday, Funk – who was the youngest woman to pass NASA’s training in the 1960s aged 21 – said: ‘I had a lot of training those weeks before in 1960… not only in America but I went to Russia and trained with the cosmonauts. 

‘Not until about two or three weeks after my training was I told that I did better than the men. 

‘I feel like I am 24! It’s great. I love being here!’ 

She said she was most looking forward to doing ‘summersaults in space.’ 

She will beat the record set by John Glenn, who took a space shuttle flight in 1998 at the age of 77. 

Bezos joked: ‘We’ve been training with Wally here in west Texas and I can tell you, she is still doing better than the men. She can outrun all of us.’  

Daemen’s private equity boss father paid for his flight. 

It’s unclear how much but he was the runner-up in an auction in which the winner paid $28million for the seat, before having to drop out. 

He said on Monday morning: ‘I don’t think I’ve realized yet how special it is to become the youngest person ever. It’s such an opportunity – also to be an example for other kids that it is able now. 

‘Blue Origin has made the opportunity for more and more people to go. It’s so amazing, I still can’t believe it.’ 

Mark Bezos said he was ‘thrilled’ to have been asked by his brother to join him on the flight. 

‘Jeff and I have gone on a lot of adventures together. He’s my best friend. I was just, over the moon so to speak. It was remarkable.

‘I’m so excited to be there to support him, and representing our mom, dad and sister Christina. It is just an absolute thrill.’  

Bezos – who has an estimated personal worth of $207 billion – is one of a number of billionaire entrepreneurs fueling what has been dubbed the ‘new space race’, with each pumping billions of dollars into their respective start-ups with the aim of creating cheap, commercialized space travel. 

He founded Blue Origin in September 2000 and is currently funding the company to the tune of about $1 billion per year through the sale of his shares in Amazon.

His launch into space is the culmination of more than two decades of work for Bezos.

Blue Origin named the New Shepard program after astronaut Alan Shepard, who was the first American to fly into space 60 years ago. 

The flight will mark a huge milestone in the mission to send paying customers to the edge of space, and continue a rapid expansion of the space tourism industry. 

‘Ever since I was five years old, I’ve dreamed of traveling to space,’ Bezos posted to his Instagram account, adding that he want to go on the flight because ‘it’s a thing I’ve wanted to do all my life. It’s an adventure. It’s a big deal for me.’ 

His brother added: ‘I wasn’t even expecting him to say that he was going on the first flight.

‘And then when he asked me to go along, I was just awestruck. What a remarkable opportunity, not only to have this adventure, but to be able to do it with my best friend.’   

 

The sign outside of Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin operations in West Texas on July 19, 2021 in Van Horn, Texas

 The sign outside of Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin operations in West Texas on July 19, 2021 in Van Horn, Texas

The gate to Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin operations in West Texas on July 19, 2021 in Van Horn, Texas. Mr. Bezos is scheduled to lift off from the launch pad at 8am local time (9am EST/2pm GMT) on Tuesday in Blue Origin's sub-orbital New Shepard rocket in the first human spaceflight for his company

The gate to Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin operations in West Texas on July 19, 2021 in Van Horn, Texas. Mr. Bezos is scheduled to lift off from the launch pad at 8am local time (9am EST/2pm GMT) on Tuesday in Blue Origin’s sub-orbital New Shepard rocket in the first human spaceflight for his company

Oliver took the seat on the July 20 flight after the anonymous winning bidder decided to fly on a future New Shepard mission instead, due to undisclosed scheduling conflicts, Blue Origin said.

‘I am super excited to go to space,’ Oliver said in a video message.

‘I’ve been dreaming about this all my life and I will become the youngest astronaut ever because I’m 18 years old. 

‘I am super excited to experience zero G.’ 

The auction gift has allowed Club for the Future to donate $1 million each to 19 non-profit organizations, which are all supporting living and working in space.   

It also, for many, marks the correction of a historic wrong.

Mercury 13, or the First Lady Astronaut Trainees, were a group of 13 women pilots who were qualified to go to space, but were excluded due to their gender.

Funk was among them. 

While in training, Funk scored higher than Glenn – who was one of the Mercury 7 astronauts chosen to fly on Project Mercury in the 1960s – on some astronaut testing. 

In a video for Blue Origin, Funk recalled: ‘They told me that I had done better and completed the work faster than any of the guys.

So I got ahold of NASA, four times. I said I want to become an astronaut, but nobody would take me. I didn’t think that I would ever get to go up.’

She said people told her ‘Wally, you’re a girl, you can’t do that. I said guess what, doesn’t matter what you are, you can still do it if you want to do it.’  

The launch site for Blue Origin’s first human flight will be in a remote location north of Van Horn, Texas, where the firm has launched New Shepard for previous flights.  

On Monday, Blue Origin received approval Monday from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to carry humans on the New Shepard rocket into space on July 20.

New Shepard, which stands 60 feet tall, was specifically designed for Blue Origin’s space tourism venture and has successfully completed 15 test launches, with the latest on April 14.

The capsule that rides atop New Shepard seats six passengers and is equipped with reclining seats.

Each of the seats has a window that are said to the ‘the largest to fly into space.’

Cameras line the interior, allowing travelers to share their memories that are truly out of this world.

Jeff Bezos (left) welcomes auction runner-up Oliver Daemen (centre) to Launch Centre One in Texas ahead of the trip

Jeff Bezos (left) welcomes auction runner-up Oliver Daemen (centre) to Launch Centre One in Texas ahead of the trip

Wally Funk (left) takes a hat from Jeff Bezos (centre) as they prepare for the first crewed Blue Origin flight on July 20

Wally Funk (left) takes a hat from Jeff Bezos (centre) as they prepare for the first crewed Blue Origin flight on July 20

The crew of four will fly above 80 miles to pass the Karman line aboard the Blue Origin New Shepard rocket from Texas

The crew of four will fly above 80 miles to pass the Karman line aboard the Blue Origin New Shepard rocket from Texas

The crew is set to travel 62 miles above Earth’s surface, where they will experience weightlessness due to the zero gravity and see the curve of the planet with the darkness of space as the backdrop.

It is not clear how long they will spend just beyond the edge of space, but Blue Origin has stated in the past that paying customers will spend as much as 10 minutes in zero gravity before returning to Earth.  

The billionaire space race is fueled by optimism that space travel will become mainstream as nascent technology is proven and costs fall, fueling what UBS estimates could be a $3 billion annual tourism market by 2030.

Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, as well as Musk’s SpaceX, have also discussed using their rockets to link far-flung global cities.

UBS says that long-haul travel market could be worth more than $20 billion, though several barriers such as air-safety certification could derail the plans.

Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas said: ‘Putting the world’s richest man and one of the most recognized figures in business into space is a massive advertisement for space as a domain for exploration, industrialization and investment.’

Branson is shown floating in zero gravity on board Unity after reaching the edge of space above Spaceport America near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, U.S. July 11, 2021

Branson is shown floating in zero gravity on board Unity after reaching the edge of space above Spaceport America near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, U.S. July 11, 2021 

THE BILLIONAIRE SPACE RACE: HOW BRANSON, MUSK AND BEZOS ARE VYING FOR GALACTIC SUPREMACY

Jeff Bezos in front of Blue Origin's space capsule

Jeff Bezos in front of Blue Origin’s space capsule

Dubbed the ‘NewSpace’ set, Jeff Bezos, Sir Richard Branson and Elon Musk all say they were inspired by the first moon landing in 1969, when the US beat the Soviet Union in the space race, and there is no doubt how much it would mean to each of them to win the ‘new space race’.

Amazon founder Bezos had looked set to be the first of the three to fly to space, having announced plans to launch aboard his space company Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft on July 20. 

The billionaire mogul will travel with his younger brother Mark, a charity auction winner who’s shelling out $28 million and pioneering female astronaut Wally Funk, 82.

However, Branson has now announced he’s planning to make a suborbital flight nine days before Bezos and his brother. He revealed on Twitter that he plans to be Astronaut 001 on Virgin Galactic’s July 11 test flight.

Although SpaceX and Tesla founder Musk has said he wants to go into space, and even ‘die on Mars’, he has not said when he might blast into orbit. 

SpaceX appears to be leading the way in the broader billionaire space race with numerous launches carrying NASA equipment to the ISS and partnerships to send tourists to space by 2021.  

On February 6 2018, SpaceX sent rocket towards the orbit of Mars, 140 million miles away, with Musk’s own red Tesla roadster attached. 

Elon Musk with his Dragon Crew capsule

Elon Musk with his Dragon Crew capsule

NASA has already selected two astronauts who will be on-board the first manned Dragon mission. 

SpaceX has also started sending batches of 60 satellites into space to help form its Starlink network. 

Musk hopes this will provide an interconnected web of satellites around Earth which will beam down free internet to people worldwide.  

Branson and Virgin Galactic are taking a different approach to conquering space. It has repeatedly, and successfully, conducted test flights of the Virgin Galactic’s Unity space plane. 

The first took place in December 2018 and the latest on May 22, with the flight accelerating to more than 2,000 miles per hour (Mach 2.7). 

More than 600 affluent customers to date, including celebrities Brad Pitt and Katy Perry, have reserved a $250,000 (£200,000) seat on one of Virgin’s space trips. 

Branson has previously said he expects Elon Musk to win the race to Mars with his private rocket firm SpaceX. 

Richard Branson with the Virgin Galactic craft

Richard Branson with the Virgin Galactic craft

SpaceShipTwo can carry six passengers and two pilots. Each passenger gets the same seating position with two large windows – one to the side and one overhead.

The space ship is 60ft long with a 90inch diameter cabin allowing maximum room for the astronauts to float in zero gravity.

It climbs to 50,000ft before the rocket engine ignites. SpaceShipTwo separates from its carrier craft, White Knight II, once it has passed the 50-mile mark.

Passengers become ‘astronauts’ when they reach the Karman line, the boundary of Earth’s atmosphere.

The spaceship will then make a suborbital journey with approximately six minutes of weightlessness, with the entire flight lasting approximately 1.5 hours.

Bezos revealed in April 2017 that he finances Blue Origin with around $1 billion (£720 million) of Amazon stock each year.

The system consists of a pressurised crew capsule atop a reusable ‘New Shepard’ booster rocket.   

Bezos is one of the richest men in the world and Blue Origin has successfully flown the New Shepard rocket 15 times.

At its peak, the capsule reached 65 miles (104 kilometres), just above the official threshold for space and landed vertically seven minutes after liftoff.  



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