Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos’ space enterprise, auctioned off a seat on its scheduled first crewed spacecraft for $28 million on Saturday.
The winning bidder, whose identity has yet to be revealed, will go to the edge of space alongside Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and his brother Mark on Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket, which is set to launch on July 20.
The auction winner’s identity will be revealed in the following weeks, according to the firm.
The auction began with a starting bid of $4.8 million, but within minutes, it had topped $20 million.
The revenues from the auction will go to Blue Origin’s education-focused organization Club for the Future, which helps youth who want to pursue STEM jobs in the future.
During the auction webcast, Blue Origin director of astronaut and orbital sales Ariane Cornell claimed that New Shepard’s first passenger voyage will transport four people: Bezos, his brother, the auction winner, and a fourth person who will be revealed later.
New Shepard, a rocket that can carry a capsule to over 340,000 feet, has completed more than a dozen successful test flights without passengers, including one in April at the company’s Texas desert base.
It can transport up to six people and can fly without the assistance of a pilot.
The capsule includes enormous windows that let passengers to see the world below while in zero gravity for around three minutes before returning to Earth.
Blue Origin’s method is vertically launched, and the rocket and capsule are both reusable. The boosters land vertically on a concrete pad at the company’s Van Horn, Texas, site, while the capsules use parachutes to land.
Blue Origin was formed by Bezos in 2000, and he still controls it, having funded it through Amazon stock sales.
The 20th of July is significant because it is the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing.
Bezos, along with fellow billionaires Elon Musk and Sir Richard Branson, are racing to the moon, but in different ways. Bezos’ Blue Origin and Branson’s Virgin Galactic are vying to transport people to the edge of space on short flights, known as suborbital tourism, while Musk’s SpaceX is sending private travelers on longer, multi-day missions, known as orbital tourism.
Both Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic have been working on rocket-powered spacecraft, but the similarities end there.
While Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket takes off vertically from the ground, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo system is released in mid-flight and glides back to Earth for a runway touchdown.
The system of Virgin Galactic is likewise operated by two pilots, although Blue Origin’s is launched without one.
Branson’s business has already completed a test spaceflight with a passenger on board, however, the business still has to complete three more spaceflight tests before it can begin carrying commercial clients in 2022.