A soon-to-be floaty Jeff Bezos is scheduled to lift off to the edge of space at 9 a.m. EST on July 20th, 2021. Or Year 1, the first year in our new system of time measurement once delineated by the birth of Jesus Christ and now Jeff Bezos’s trip to space, which will virtually annihilate all memory of anyone who’s actually reluctantly orbited around the Moon because they had to and hated it.
Now Bezos will have cast a fleeting gaze upon this doomed rock he has covered with logistics vehicles and fulfillment centers and forevermore introduce himself as an “astronaut.” And we can watch footage of the exterior of the rocket ferrying a $206 billion set of eyeballs.
We can all watch the payoff live on Blue Origin’s website or YouTube at CBS News (or here, embedded below) with pre-launch coverage starting at around 7:30 a.m. ET on Tuesday, July 20. The launch, which will take place in the West Texas desert outside El Paso, is scheduled for around 9 a.m. EST.
That depends on whether you think you can claim you’ve taken a “trip” from New York to New Jersey by crossing the George Washington Bridge and then immediately turning around without getting out of the car. But yes.
The capsule will cross the Kármán line, 62 miles above sea level, the internationally-recognized (but still disputed) boundary between the Earth’s atmosphere and space. It will be there for perhaps one minute, at which point Bezos can credibly exclaim, “I am a spaceman!” At most, he will be able to unbuckle his seatbelt for about three minutes to perform the backflip he’s dreamed about for 57 years.
Reaching this point cost Bezos in excess of, at minimum, $4 billion, judging by Bezos’s 2018 remark to Business Insider that he was spending about $1 billion annually to fund Blue Origin and planned “to do that for a long time.”
Blue Origin notes that, following the landing in the West Texas desert, it will livestream a press conference with “the astronauts,” who will include Bezos. Also on board: the humanizing company of his brother Mark; 82-year-old pilot Wally Funk who was previously deprived of the chance to go to space; and Oliver Daemen, the 18-year-old son of the CEO of a Dutch investment firm whose ticket possibly cost tens of millions of dollars. The teen is a last-minute replacement for an anonymous person who purchased a $28 million ticket and can no longer make it due to “scheduling conflicts.” No word on what that person is doing instead.
Because Jeff Bezos apparently hates Elon Musk, and he can get it up. Blue Origin has lately been warring with SpaceX over $2.89 billion in taxpayer funding for the NASA Artemis contracts to work on the Moon landing program. After that money went to SpaceX, Blue Origin got Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) to pencil in up to $10 billion in additional NASA contracts to a science funding bill. (Her amendment passed and awaits a vote in the House. Bezos has over 20 times that sum in personal wealth, which is already earmarked for accumulating more wealth.)
Both SpaceX and Blue Origin brought the pissing contest to the Senate in dueling fliers, with Blue Origin’s titled: “What is Elon Musk afraid of...a little competition?”One month later, Bezos announced that he was personally getting on the rocket, which was the plan his whole life.
Sorta. Richard Branson trip to “space” on July 11 was actually to a spot three miles above NASA’s minimum space baseline of 50 miles above sea level, but below the Kármán line. Two days before the trip, apropos of nothing, Blue Origin tweeted that space is actually above Kármán line, which is the place where Blue Origin’s rockets go.
“From the beginning, New Shepard was designed to fly above the Kármán line so none of our astronauts have an asterisk next to their name,” Blue Origin declared for the record. “For 96% of the world’s population, space begins 100 km up at the internationally recognized Kármán line.”
You may recall that Branson’s space plane crashed in 2014, killing one pilot, but that was during a new fuel test. The New Shepard is probably as safe as can be expected after “15 successful consecutive missions,” as Blue Origin describes it.
That’s a lot compared to NASA’s “Mega Moon Rocket,” which NASA has constructed with Boeing, and plans to put astronauts on board after only a single uncrewed flight.
Still, it’s “probably safe” to the extent that thrusting oneself into space on a 44-million-horsepower engine burning millions of pounds of flaming liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen is “probably safe.”