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    Tuesday, July 20, 2021

    Billionaire Bezos Back on Earth After Successful Suborbital Trip

    Billionaire Jeff Bezos was back on earth safely Tuesday after a 10-minute suborbital flight aboard Blue Origin's New Shepard spacecraft.

    “Best day ever,” Bezos said after the capsule touched down near Van Horn, Texas.  

    The spacecraft is named after Alan Shepard, the first American launched into space.

    The world’s richest man blasted off Tuesday from a remote desert launch site in Texas, as he became the second billionaire to self-fund a trip to space this month.

    The fully automated rocket reached an altitude of about 106 kilometers after reaching Mach 3. Once at altitude, the booster separated from the capsule and returned to earth landing upright near the launch site. The crew was able to experience weightlessness for 3 to 4 minutes before a parachute landing back on earth

    The altitude surpassed the 85-kilometer mark reached by British billionaire Richard Branson on July 11 when he and five crewmates flew aboard his Virgin Galactic rocket-powered space plane.   

    The 57-year-old founder of e-commerce giant Amazon founded Blue Origin in 2000 with the goal of creating permanent space colonies where people will live and work.

    Bezos was joined by his brother, Mark, plus 82-year-old aviation pioneer Mary Wallace “Wally” Funk and 18-year-old Oliver Daemen, making them the oldest and youngest persons to fly into space.  

    Funk was one of the so-called Mercury 13, group of women who were part of a privately funded program to train women for space travel. None of them traveled to space.

    The Dutch-born Daemen was a last-minute addition to the crew after the anonymous winner of a $28 million auction for a seat on New Shepard dropped out, citing a scheduling conflict. Daemen’s father was a runner-up in the auction, which makes the young astronaut Blue Origin’s first paying customer. 

    Bezos, a fervent space enthusiast since watching the Apollo lunar missions in his youth, made his trip on the 52nd anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 lunar landing.   

    During a television interview Monday, Bezos insisted that his goal was not about competition with Branson, but “about building a road to space so that future generations can do incredible things in space.” 

    Blue Origin’s first manned mission comes after 15 test flights of the New Shepard vehicle. Bob Smith, the company’s chief executive officer, says two more manned missions aboard New Shepard are planned by the end of this year.

    The company is also building a larger rocket, New Glenn — named after John Glenn, the first U.S. astronaut to orbit the Earth — that will send both manned and unmanned vehicles into space.

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