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Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin to auction its first space tourist spot aboard a rocket

May 5, 2021, 6:01 PM UTC

Blue Origin, the rocket company owned by Jeff Bezos, said on Wednesday that it would auction off one seat on a space flight planned for July 20 with the proceeds donated to charity. If successful, the launch would mark the first paying passenger taken into space in more than a decade.

Blue Origin, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, Elon Musk’s SpaceX, and other space startups have been pitching space tourism as a potentially lucrative market for wealthy people wanting to experience space. The market may amount to $3 billion annually by 2030, UBS analysts say, but no tourists have left the atmosphere in more than 10 years after several traveled to the International Space Station aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

Fewer than 600 people in history have been above the Kármán Line, named for physicist Theodore von Kármán, where the atmosphere is too thin to support airplane flight. The line starts at an altitude of 100 kilometers, or 62 miles.

Blue Origin said it had begun taking sealed bids on Wednesday for a seat on its July launch. On May 19, the auction will shift to public online bidding, and the highest bid will be revealed. The auction is supposed to conclude on June 12 with live bidding. Proceeds are to be donated to Blue Origin’s nonprofit foundation, Club for the Future, which supports STEM education.

The New Shepard capsule that will carry the winning bidder on a short suborbital flight, along with a few other astronauts, was designed to carry as many as six human passengers. It has the largest windows of any craft ever to go to space, Ariane Cornell, director of astronaut sales for Blue Origin, said at a press briefing.

“The view will be spectacular,” Cornell said. “As far as I’m concerned this is a pretty priceless experience.”

Cornell declined to say if or when Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos would take a flight into space.

The flight will go 10 times higher than a typical aircraft flight and will offer about three minutes of zero-gravity experience, with passengers feeling completely weightless. The launch site and landing area are both in West Texas.

The passenger will get just three days of training before the flight, Cornell said.

After the July flight, Blue Origin plans to carry passengers on additional flights in 2021. But it did not release the price or other details for those seats.

From 2001 to 2010, a handful of people paid to be taken into space aboard Russian rockets at prices reportedly as high as $25 million. Canadian billionaire Guy Laliberté was the last paying passenger in space, visiting the International Space Station after a flight aboard a Russian rocket in 2009.

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