It's official — Jeff Bezos is trading his title of Amazon CEO for astronaut wings.
The billionaire founder of Blue Origin, who is stepping down from his role at Amazon on July 5, will be one of the passengers aboard the first crewed test flight of New Shepard, the private spaceflight company's reusable suborbital rocket designed for space tourism.
"You see the Earth from space, and it changes you. It changes your relationship with this planet, with humanity. It's one Earth," Bezos said in an Instagram video posted this morning. "I want to go on this flight because it's a thing I've wanted to do all my life. It's an adventure. It's a big deal for me."
New Shepard has successfully completed 15 test flights so far, but none have carried any passengers, save for a dummy named Mannequin Skywalker. If all goes according to plan, the first crewed flight will take place on July 20, 2021, the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
Joining Bezos on that flight will be his brother, Mark, and the winner of an ongoing auction that will culminate on June 12 (as of publication, the current high bid is $3.2 million). But since New Shepard has room for six people, it's possible that others will accompany the trio on board.
When it becomes fully operational, New Shepard will launch quick up-and-down flights from its spaceport in West Texas. The capsule will cross the Kármán line, the internationally recognized boundary of space located approximately 62 miles above Earth, where passengers will enjoy several minutes in weightlessness before descending back to the ground under parachutes.
The crewed test flight of New Shepard will make Blue Origin the third private spaceflight company to fly humans into space; Elon Musk's SpaceX has taken 10 astronauts to the International Space Station, and Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic has carried six pilots and one passenger on suborbital spaceflights — all test flights. While Musk has not yet announced any plans to fly to space, Branson intends to fly later this year.
Stefanie Waldek is a freelance space, travel, and design journalist who would like to be the fourth passenger on New Shepard's upcoming flight. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter at @stefaniewaldek.
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