Blue Origin succeeds with 10-minute flight
The world’s newest astronauts cheered and laughed Tuesday as they reached the edge of space and made history.
You could hear the boisterous joy expressed by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, 57; his brother Mark Bezos, 53; Wally Funk, 82, and Oliver Daemon, 18, of The Netherlands. They cheered with delight as Ms. Funk, who trained with the “Mercury 13” of female astronaut candidates in 1961, and Mr. Daemon became the oldest and youngest astronauts in history.
Named after pioneering astronaut Alan Shepard, the New Shepard capsule and rocket went up 62 miles during Blue Origin’s apparently flawless flight from Van Horn, Texas, at a little past 6 Tuesday morning Pacific time. The rocket traveled more than three times the speed of sound, but it would be impossible to measure exactly how excited the astronauts felt.
Ms. Funk and the other astronauts were heard cheering and laughing as they reached the Kármán line, the internationally recognized line between the Earth’s atmosphere and space. They briefly unbuckled their seat belts and floated in a weightless environment.
Tuesday’s adventure was a dream-come-true for Mr. Bezos, the world’s richest “Star Trek” fan. He has loved outer space and the idea of space travel since he was 5 years old and saw the black-and-white TV images of Neil Armstrong step on the moon on July 20, 1969.
Fifty-two years later on the same date, Mr. Bezos took his own, in Mr. Armstrong’s words, “one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Viewers at home Tuesday watched the New Shepard capsule and rocket soar until it was a big white dot. Then that dot became two smaller dots as the reusable rocket separated and landed back on earth.
After their 10-minute flight, the astronauts returned to the ground, their capsule’s parachutes opening flawlessly. The flight was much like Alan Shepard’s historic 1961 flight, a short venture into space and back, but with a much roomier capsule and the biggest windows in the history of space capsules.
After the astronauts left the capsule, there were rounds of high fives with a small crowd, one much smaller than the thousands who watched the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo launches at Cape Canaveral in Florida. Still the drama was there, and champagne was popped. Jeff Bezos hugged his parents; Mr. Daemon hugged his father.
Afterward, Mr. Bezos, who stepped down from Amazon, told reporters he was going to split his time between Blue Origin, the space company behind Tuesday’s flight, and the Bezos Earth Fund.
When asked if he was going to fly again, Mr. Bezos said, “Hell, yes.”
Said Ms. Funk, “That’s the best thing that ever happened to me.”