Jeff Bezos Launches Into Space Aboard Blue Origin Rocket

Jeff Bezos, the founder of online retailer Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) and the world’s richest person, is scheduled to fly into space today (July 20) aboard a rocket developed by his other company, Blue Origin.

Bezos will blast off for an 11-minute ride on space tourism company Blue Origin’s rocket, fulfilling what he says is a childhood dream.

Bezos, his brother and two other people, will fly on the "New Shepard" rocket built by Blue Origin, the space company Bezos founded in 2000 with a vision of millions of people living and working in space.

The rocket is scheduled to launch from Texas at about 8:00 a.m. local time in Blue Origin’s first flight with passengers onboard. The New Shepard rocket has previously flown 15 unmanned test flights into space.

At an altitude of 47 miles (76 km), a 10-foot-tall capsule with large windows and reclining leather seats will detach from the booster and ascend beyond the Karman line 62 miles above the Earth, where the passengers experience a few minutes of weightlessness and unforgettable views. They then strap back in and freefall toward the desert ground with six parachutes. Just before touchdown, a retro thruster slows the descent for a soft landing.

Flying alongside Bezos will be Oliver Daemen, the 18-year-old son of a Dutch financier, as well as Bezos’s brother Mark, age 53, and Wally Funk, 82, a former astronaut trainee. Funk will be the oldest person ever to travel into space and Daemen the youngest.

The suborbital journey is set to begin nine days after billionaire Sir Richard Branson demonstrated his rival company’s capabilities by boarding a Virgin Galactic vessel and taking a similar flight to a lower altitude of 53.5 miles, where passengers experienced weightlessness.

Both Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin want to sell space flights to wealthy tourists. Highly publicized excursions by their billionaire founders serve as a vote of confidence in the safety of such trips.

Bezos, age 57, started as an online book business from his Seattle garage in 1994 and turned it into the world’s largest online retailer, making him the wealthiest man on Earth with a net worth of about $200 billion U.S.

Bezos has been selling Amazon stock to fund Blue Origin, which is based in Kent, Washington and now has 3,500 employees and also builds rocket engines used to launch satellites into orbit. Bezos stepped down as Amazon’s chief executive earlier this month and transitioned into the role of executive chairman of the e-commerce giant.