An unidentified enthusiast made an astronomical bid of $ 28 million on Saturday to win an online auction for a seat aboard a New Shepard spacecraft and a chance to make history next month, joining the owner rocket ship and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos for a commercial flight to space.
Auctions for the 10-12 minute suborbital flight started at $ 4.8 million. In less than two minutes, it shot up to $ 10 million, doubling to $ 20 million a minute and 10 seconds later. The winning bid of $ 28 million was accepted just over six minutes after the start of the last round of the auction.
“I go there three times … and it sells! Twenty-eight million dollars at 107!” auctioneer Steve Little announced it with fanfare.
Bezos’ rocket company Blue Origin said in a tweet that the name of the winner will be released in the weeks following the auction. The company added: “Then the fourth and final crew member will be announced – stay tuned.”
Blue Origin’s six-seat New Shepard capsule will carry Bezos, his brother Mark, the as yet unidentified auction winner, and another passenger on a short, up-and-down flight to the lower parts of space on July 20, the 52 anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
Launched from a company test facility near Van Horn, Texas, the reusable single-stage New Shepard rocket will propel the crew’s capsule to an altitude just above 62 miles, the ” internationally recognized limit of space, before it passes by parachute. descent to Earth.
Bezos and his teammates will experience about three minutes of weightlessness near the top of the flight path, enjoying spectacular views of Earth from six windows that the company says are the largest ever flown in space.
Blue Origin announced the auction on May 5, a dramatic way to reveal that the company was finally ready to begin transporting passengers to space after 15 successful unmanned test flights. A month later, on June 7, Bezos announced on Instagram that he and his brother Mark would join the auction winner for the historic theft.
Nearly 7,600 people from 159 countries registered for the auction and the top 20 bidders, none identified, entered the final round on Saturday. A 6% fee has been added to the winning auction.
Proceeds will be donated to Blue Origin’s foundation, “Club for the Future,” which the company said in a previous statement aims to inspire “the next generation as they leave and think of millions living and living. working in space … which is precisely Blue Origin’s vision. “
Blue Origin has yet to announce the normal cost of New Shepard seats, but tickets are expected to cost around several hundred thousand dollars each.
Competing with fellow billionaires Richard Branson and Elon Musk, Bezos said he spends $ 1 billion a year to fund Blue Origin and the development of suborbital spacecraft for commercial space travel as well as larger boosters. and more powerful. to launch satellites, and possibly people, into orbit and beyond.
New Shepard’s next flight is expected to be the first to carry purely civilian passengers into space aboard a commercial-built unmanned corporate or government spacecraft on board.
While civilians have previously flown as guests or paying passengers on American and Russian spacecraft, these missions were government sponsored and piloted by professional astronauts. Branson’s Virgin Galactic has sent the company’s pilots and engineers to space on suborbital test flights, all civilian, but so far no members of the public.
Following Bezos’ announcement, there has been speculation that Virgin Galactic may try to beat Blue Origin in the fist, throwing Branson on a test flight over the July 4th holiday weekend.
But Bezos and Blue Origin would presumably always claim the distinction of launching the first truly commercial spaceflight, taking off with the first non-government and non-government passengers flying through space aboard a private and operated spacecraft.
Musk’s company SpaceX is already launching astronaut crews to NASA’s International Space Station and plans to launch a fully commercial orbital mission in September. Additional commercial flights are expected.
No matter how the history books record it, the Blue Origin flight is the culmination of a long-held dream for Bezos and a dramatic way to demonstrate his faith in rocket and spacecraft safety. of his business, matching Branson’s long-standing goal of stealing from his business. space plane.
“You see Earth from space, and it changes you, it changes your relationship with this planet, with humanity. It’s one Earth,” Bezos said in an Instagram post announcing his flight. “I want to take this flight because it’s the thing I’ve wanted to do all my life. It’s an adventure. It’s a big deal for me. I invited my brother to come on this first flight. because we are closest friends. “