Jeff Bezos hails ‘best day ever’ after successful Blue Origin space flight | Jeff Bezos

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The Amazon founder Jeff Bezos hailed “the best day ever” after completing his pioneering foray into space on Tuesday with three crewmates, among them his brother Mark.

The billionaire’s New Shepard rocket and capsule touched down in the Texas desert after a suborbital flight that lasted a mere 11 minutes, but set several records for his Blue Origin space company, including the oldest and youngest humans to fly into space.

Wally Funk, an 82-year-old female aviation pioneer who trained as an astronaut in the 1960s, flew as Bezos’s guest, while Oliver Daemen, 18, a student from the Netherlands and son of a private enquiry firm’s chief executive, was Blue Origin’s first paying customer.

The world’s richest man with an estimated net worth of $206bn, Bezos, 57, sprayed champagne and shouted his enjoyment after the successful landing of New Shepard’s first crewed mission following 15 uncrewed test flights.

“It was the best day ever,” Bezos said after emerging from the capsule, adding that he felt “unbelievably good” and that his colleagues were “a very happy crew”.

Jeff Bezos, Mark Bezos, pioneering female aviator Wally Funk and recent high school graduate Oliver Daemen pose ahead of their scheduled flight. Photograph: Blue Origin/Reuters

The tycoon, however, has also attracted criticism for putting his fortune into space tourism amid concerns over working conditions at Amazon, and “aggressive” tax avoidance.

In recent years, Bezos, who stood down as Amazon chief executive this month to concentrate on the space company he founded in 2000, has sold about $1bn in Amazon stock annually to fund Blue Origin. The firm intends to run regular space tourism flights for commercial passengers.

New Shepard, named as a tribute to Alan Shepard, the first American in Space in 1961, blasted off into a clear blue sky from the launchpad in Van Horn, Texas, at 8.12am local time, the first of three scheduled flights this year, on the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

The crew capsule successfully separated from its rocket booster shortly before reaching the 62-mile altitude Karman Line, the internationally accepted boundary of space, after about three minutes of flight.

The crew experienced about three to four minutes of weightlessness during which the spacecraft reached the top of its flight path at 66.5 miles, more than 10 miles higher than the British billionaire Sir Richard Branson’s flight to the edge of space aboard Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity nine days earlier.

Audio from the capsule on Blue Origin’s live webcast of the flight captured the crew members shouting in excitement as they floated around the spacecraft.

After re-entering Earth’s atmosphere, the capsule glided to a gentle landing on parachutes, minutes after the reusable booster returned to a powered landing on a nearby pad.

Bezos assumed the moniker “Astronaut Demo” for the flight to distinguish him from his 53-year-old brother.

Their sister Christina, director of the Bezos family foundation, sent her siblings a message before the flight, reminding them how they would pretend to be Star Trek characters as children.

“As you buckle in, I’m reminded of when Jeff was Captain Kirk, Mark, you were Sulu, and I took the role of Uhura, we would battle Klingons while firing torpedoes, all the while dodging in and out of traffic, and praying that we make it to our destination safely,” she said.

“Mark, be prepared to fire those torpedoes in order to do so. Now, get your asses back down here so I can give you a big hug. We love you, and Godspeed New Shepard.”

Blue Origin’s New Shepard capsule parachutes safely down to the launch area, near Van Horn, Texas, on Tuesday.
Blue Origin’s New Shepard capsule parachutes safely down to the launch area, near Van Horn, Texas, on Tuesday. Photograph: Tony Gutierrez/AP

“I’m excited, I’m not really nervous,” Bezos told CBS’s This Morning on Monday. “This vehicle is ready, this crew is ready, we are feeling really good about it.”

Blue Origin has opened sales for future space tourism flights, but has not set a price, or revealed how much Daemen paid. The winning bid in a June auction for the first seat was $28m (£20m), the winner pulling out of today’s flight because of a “scheduling conflict”.

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