Jeff Bezos and crew to blast into space

jeff bezos 2156 1120 4 - Jeff Bezos and crew to blast into space

Jeff Bezos. Joshua Roberts/Reuters

Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest person, on Tuesday is set to blast off aboard his company Blue Origin’s New Shepard launch vehicle for a suborbital flight as part of a history-making crew — another milestone in ushering in a new era of private space travel. Watch the launch live-stream video below.

The American billionaire is due to fly from a desert site in West Texas on an 11-minute voyage to the edge of space nine days after British rival Richard Branson was aboard his competing space tourism company Virgin Galactic’s successful inaugural suborbital flight from New Mexico.

Branson got to space first, but Bezos is due to fly higher — 100km for Blue Origin compared to 86km for Virgin Galactic — in what experts call the world’s first unpiloted space flight with an all-civilian crew.

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Watch the launch live at 3pm South African time:

Bezos, founder of e-commerce juggernaut Amazon.com, and his brother and private equity executive Mark Bezos will be joined in the flight by two others. Pioneering female aviator Wally Funk, 82, and recent high school graduate Oliver Daemen, 18, are set to become the oldest and youngest people to reach space.

“I am excited, but not anxious. We’ll see how I feel when I’m strapped into my seat,” Bezos said in an interview with Fox Business Network on Monday. “We’re ready. The vehicle’s ready. This team is amazing. I feel very good about it. And I think my fellow crewmates feel good about it, too.”

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Funk was one of the so-called Mercury 13 group of women who trained to become Nasa astronauts in the early 1960s but was passed over because of her gender. Daemen, Blue Origin’s first paying customer, is set to attend the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands to study physics and innovation management in September. His father heads investment management firm Somerset Capital Partners.

Barring technical or weather-related delays, New Shepard is due to blast off around 3pm South African time from Blue Origin’s Launch Site One facility some 32km outside the rural Texas town of Van Horn.  — Reported by Eric M Johnson, (c) 2021 Reuters

Watch | Richard Branson and crew launch into space

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