The race to space for the rich came to a head in July as Virgin magnate Richard Branson and Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos made their way to the stars aboard spaceships they helped to fund. Although Bezos was poised to be the first private citizen in space aboard his own vessel, his launch and landing took place today, July 20, while Branson made his maiden flight more than a week ago. Bezos summed up his flight by saying it was “the best day ever.”
Bezos’ brother, Mark Bezos, was one of the crew to join the historic journey, along with the oldest person ever to go into space, Mary Wallace “Wally” Funk (82), and the youngest, Oliver Daemen (18). Funk was a female pilot with the Mercury 13 program during the U.S.-Soviet space race era, but at that time only men went into space. However, she did become the first female Federal Aviation Administration inspector.
Daemen took the place of the anonymous bidder who paid $28 million for the flight but then had to cancel due to “scheduling conflicts.” He is a Dutch student who will begin attending classes at Utrecht University in the fall and has the distinction of being the first paying customer for Blue Origin after winning the forfeited auction ticket, although just how much was paid for it was not disclosed.
The capsule reached an altitude of 65.8 miles above ground level and had a maximum ascent velocity of approximately 2,233 m.p.h. The entire mission took just ten minutes and ten seconds to complete. “It was so amazing, it was so amazing,” Daemen said after landing back on Earth.
The race between Branson and Bezos isn’t over yet. Although both wanted a trip to space, the goal is to sell tickets to the public for future star travel aboard their companies’ rockets. These fun tests were just the beginning of that objective.
Branson’s Virgin Galactic has billed itself as the world’s first commercial spaceline and plans to sell tickets to the public after at least one more test run, yet the Dutch student on Bezos’ Blue Origins officially became the first person to purchase a ticket via the auction. It is doubtful that any tickets will be affordable for the average person. More than 600 people have reserved tickets for Virgin Galactic, costing $200,000 to $250,000. And now that the mission has been a success, it is expected that prices will only skyrocket.
Read more from Kelli Ballard.