The ongoing space race has entered another dimension as Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced that he would fly to space on July 20th aboard the New Shepard rocket owned by his Blue Origin.
Bezos will fly alongside his brother and two unnamed crew members.
Blue Origin auctioned off one seat on the spacecraft with bidding starting at $4.8 million, but it didn’t end there--not by a long shot. A mystery bidder won the auction with a $28-million bid to join them on the ride estimated to last about 11 minutes. Blue Origin said that the fourth rider would be announced later.
It’s an exorbitant 11 minutes.
New Shepard, designed to carry up to six people without a pilot, has already flown more than a dozen successful test flights without passengers onboard.
Blue Origin is up against fellow billionaires Elon Musk (SpaceX) and Richard Branson (Virgin Galactic) for the title of the first company to send paying passengers into space. All three are already in the race for lucrative military contracts, too.
In September, Musk unveiled the Starship spacecraft designed to carry 100 passengers and cargo to space. SpaceX announced test flights would start soon, with plans to land on the moon before 2022.
Last November, SpaceX launched the first manned mission to the International Space Station, sending four astronauts into orbit atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket for a 27-hour journey.
SpaceX has signed contracts with NASA valued at $3 billion to develop, test and fly an astronaut taxi service. NASA says it is now entering a new era in which routine voyages to low-Earth orbit are being conducted by commercial providers.
Branson’s Virgin Galactic launched its new “One Small Step” qualification process, allowing those who are serious about flying to space to register now and buy a slot at the front of the line for firm seat reservations.
Virgin Galactic said it would begin taking $1,000 refundable deposits as it prepares to release the next batch of tickets to the general public. The company said prices and timing for its next flight were not available yet, even though tickets for the inaugural flights had earlier been priced at $250,000.
The company reported that 7,957 people have so far signed up to register interest, including singer Justin Beiber, actor Leonardo di Caprio and many other celebrities and wealthy people.
As for Bezos's auction, nearly 7,600 people from pretty much every country in the world registered to bid on the maiden flight.
A pandemic, it would seem, has done nothing to dampen interest in space among the wealthy.
In the last year, as the world was battling with a pandemic, more than seven hundred new billionaires emerged from the wreckage.
Bezos alone has seen his net worth soar by $63.6 billion. Musk has added a whopping $140 billion to his net worth.
At the same time, global GDP shrank by 3.3% last year, and the global economy is set to lose over $22 trillion between 2020 and 2025, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).