Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and three other passengers roared into space Tuesday in the first crewed ride by the billionaire’s Blue Origin space company, fulfilling a longtime goal for Mr. Bezos and opening a new chapter in space tourism.
Rockets propelled the capsule vertically at more than 2,000 mph before the capsule separated into space.
The flight took less than 11 minutes and propelled the four-member crew above the Karman line that’s considered the boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and space.
Passengers didn’t have to do anything except withstand the heaviness of G-forces early in the flight before enjoying the view and feeling of weightlessness. They could be heard whooping with excitement and crying, “It’s dark up here!” and “Oh my word!”
The reusable booster rocket landed back on Earth before the three-parachuted capsule descended gently to the ground.
“Welcome back to Earth,” mission control told the crew.
The crew exited the capsule to cheers and hugs from well-wishers. Champagne appeared, and they sprayed it all over each other and the desert.
Tuesday’s launch from West Texas comes on the heels of Richard Branson’s flight to the edge of space a week ago with Virgin Galactic. Elon Musk’s SpaceX took a crew to the International Space Station last year.
The date of the launch marked the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
Mr. Bezos was joined by his brother, Mark, and Mary Wallace “Wally” Funk, an 82-year-old aviation pioneer whose space ambitions were derailed in the 1960s when the Mercury 13 program for women was canceled.
An 18-year-old Dutch student, Oliver Daemen, rounded out the crew after his father — Joes Daemen, CEO and founder of Somerset Capital Partners — paid for the seat.
Trips to space are open to an exclusive club of the wealthy, at least for now, though Mr. Branson and Mr. Bezos say they’re trying to make the journeys common enough to broaden access.
Not everyone was happy for Mr. Bezos, whose company has faced criticism over the reach of its business model and efforts to block a union drive in Alabama.
Former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard tweeted: “Bezos, please stay up there. Do the world a favor.”