- Successful first crewed launch of Blue Origin
- Capsule lands safely after 10-minute flight
- Jeff Bezos, Mark Bezos, 18-year-old Oliver Daemen and 82-year-old Wally Funk celebrate feat
- Capsule had biggest windows ever flown in space giving unique views of Earth
Blue Origin blasted off – and landed safely – sending Jeff Bezos and its three crew members up towards space and making history for private space flight.
The rocket lifted off at 2.15pm UK time, taking off from Blue Origin’s Launch Site One in West Texas to take Mr Bezos up 62 miles, above the Karman line and briefly into space.
Mr Bezos was joined on the maiden crewed flight of Blue Origin by his brother Mark, 82-year-old Wally Funk, a former engineer who will become the oldest person in space, and 18-year-old Oliver Daemen, a student who was gifted his spot on the flight.
The four experienced a brief period of weightlessness on flight, which lasted ten minutes and ten seconds, whooping and cheering as they floated in orbit for a period of around three minutes.
Mr Bezos, 57, said he was “happy, happy, happy” as the vehicle floated above the earth.
The flight was two decades in the making for Mr Bezos, a long time space fanatic and fan of Star Trek, who founded Blue Origin in 2000.
The company’s rocket, New Shepard, had made 15 previous flights prior to today’s launch, but it was its first including a crew complement.
On board, Blue Origin took Ms Funk, making history as the oldest person in space. She originally trained to be an astronaut in the 1960s, but along with female applicants was rejected despite passing all Nasa’s tests.
They also took Mr Daemen, a Dutch student who was gifted the place after the mystery winner of a $28m auction for a ticket pulled out due to a “scheduling” conflict.
With only a small delay, the rocket took off at 2.15pm UK time, 8.15pm in Texas. It accelerated to 2,223mph, before reaching an apogee of 347,563 feet.
It crossed the so-called Karman line, considered to be the boundary of space by international space agencies.
It flew higher than Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, who took a flight to the very edge of space just nine days earlier.
However, the space plane did not cross the line into space, although Sir Richard was still awarded astronaut wings, since the US recognises space at a height of 50 miles, rather than 62 miles for the Karman line.
After three minutes of weightlessness, the crew returned to their seats, falling back down to earth before two sets of parachutes slowed their capsule to its landing point.
Upon landing, the celebrations began: Mr Daemen said he felt “unbelievably good”, while Mr Bezos declared: “Best. Day. Ever.”
There have been questions over the space race between billionaires, Mr Bezos, Elon Musk and Sir Richard. All three have promoted tackling environmental issues, but some see them as leaving those behind in their quest for space.
Blue Origin hopes to surge ahead in space tourism, a market that could be worth more than $3bn by 2029, according to analysts.
Ariane Cornell, director of astronaut and orbital sales at Blue Origin, said during the live stream of the event: “We’ve got some exciting news for you: we are open for ticket sales.”
And that is it
Bezos wraps up by announcing a $100m award, which would then go towards charities, for people who encourage civilised debate – which he has called its “Courage and Civility Award”.
Thank you for joining us for our liveblog today. Will Elon Musk join Bezos and Branson in space? We shall see.
Questions from the media
Bezos takes questions from the press:
He is asked what he plans to do with his time now he has stepped down from Amazon.
“I am going to split my time between Blue Origin and the Bezos Earth Fund,” he says.
Will you be flying again?
Bezos is asked how many flights he expects to get out of its reusable rockets:
“We want to get to 100 and then push it past 100,” he says.
How do you make this more reasonably priced for everyday people who like to fly?
“You’ve got to do it the same way we did it with commercial airline travel,” he says. “These are biplanes flying into a farmers field. But that leads to 787s. That’s what we have to do.”
Video of weightlessness
The picture quality is not great so apologies for the below, but they are now showing off a quick video of the four enjoying weightlessness.
Jeff Bezos even takes out a pack of skittles and throws one to Oliver Daemen, as he is hanging upside down.
It was only just over three minutes, but it does look like fun.
Wally Funk, the world’s oldest astronaut, has her say
“I loved it. We had a great time. I want to go again fast,” says Wally Funk, ever energetic.
Bezos adds: “We can confirm that once again Wally beat all of us in training.”
Bezos pays tributes
Bezos brings a pair of aviator goggles to the front, which were worn by Amelia Earhart, the American aviator. He says he took the goggles with him into space.
His brother Mark also says the group took a piece of the Wright brothers plane and piece of the first hot air balloon with them into orbit.
Jeff Bezos speaks
Bezos thanks the flight crew, the safety engineers, and the team at Blue Origin. He also thanks the people of Van Horn, the town where its launch site is situated.
“I want to thank every Amazon employee, and every Amazon customer because you paid for all this,” he adds.
Press conference begins and the astronauts receive their wings
The four astronauts are awarded their wings for their flight into space, starting with Oliver Daemen, the 18-year-old student.
‘We need to move industry into space
A little more from that Bloomberg interview. Jeff Bezos makes clear his ultimate vision is not just space tourism or reaching the moon. He believes space can provide a route to move heavy industry away from earth, such as mining, into orbit.
Bezos has previously touted ideas for vast human colonies in space, which could house millions of people, as well as bases on the moon.
We have to keep earth safe. To slowly, over decades, move all heavy polluting industry out into space. But to do that we need reusable space craft. We have to practice, and that is what this is all about.
Jeff Bezos speaks after his trip to space.
Bezos is back on solid ground and we are expecting a press conference to start shortly. He’s given a quick interview to Bloomberg, where he explains what he saw and what is next for Blue Origin.
“It was much more than I expected, it was just awe inspiring.
“The long term vision is we are building an orbital vehicle called New Glenn. This vehicle we flew is our sub orbital tourism vehicle. Every time we fly it is practice for this mission. It gives people a chance to see what we just saw, which is this fragile, beautiful earth, that you cannot imagine… maybe we need to send a poet up, someone who will be better at describing it.
What I can tell you is it is just one place, there are no boundaries, no natural lines. There is earth’s atmosphere, when we get up there it is this teensy little thing we need to protect. For me it was incredible.
Kids, every kid has so much potential inside of them… we are unlocking that. I was inspired as a little boy by the Apollo astronauts, and I hope that inspires little kids too.
Meanwhile at Virgin Galactic
Shares in Mr Bezos’s rival Virgin Galactic have fallen by as much as 9pc since yesterday, writes Io Dodds.
Unlike Blue Origin, Virgin is a public company and it has been buffeted by short sellers in recent months. At the peak back in May, shares sold short comprised 28pc of all those available on the stock market, according to estimates by S3 Partners.
But sustained share price rises as Virgin announced its authorisation to fly passengers caused a rout, with short-sellers losing an estimated $1.4bn since the start of the year. More recently, they have recouped some of their losses as the stock has fallen again.
Key numbers from the flight
Blue Origin has released a run down of its mission information following the flight.
- Crew capsule apogee: 347,563 ft / 105km
- Ascent velocity: 2,233mph
- Total mission time: 10 minutes and 10 seconds
‘Ticket sales are now open’
Do you want to go to space? Applications are now open, and Blue Origin’s dramatic live stream ended with a sales pitch, writes Io Dodds.
“To all of you out there, if you like what you saw, and you are serious and interested in reserving your seat on a future rocket ride to space and back with New Shepard, we’ve got some exciting news for you: we are open for ticket sales,” said Ariane Cornell, director of astronaut and orbital sales, who presented the stream.
Applicants can email firstname.lastname@example.org to get started. No price was mentioned, but perhaps if you need to ask it’s not for you.
By comparison, Virgin Galactic is not yet selling tickets, although you can enter a “Willy-Wonka” style competition to win two free seats.
Congratulations from Sir Richard Branson
Nine days after his own trip to the edge of space, Sir Richard Branson congratulates his fellow billionaire for his orbital journey.
‘Happy, happy, happy’
The delight in the New Shepard capsule when it breached the Karman line was palpable, writes our San Francisco correspondent Io Dodds.
Whereas audio and video for Richard Branson’s VSS Unity spacecraft cut out at the crucial moment, Mr Bezos and his fellow passengers could be heard cheering and whooping throughout their brief sojourn in outer space.
“Oh my word!” someone exclaimed. Mr Bezos responded to an OK check from ground control with “happy, happy, happy!” The controller, laughing, responded: “Copy.”
Upon landing, the celebrations continued: Mr Daemen said he felt “unbelievably good”, while Mr Bezos declared: “Best. Day. Ever.”
He added that his “main mission was accomplished – I didn’t kick anybody”. Wally Funk observed with surprise that the trip was only five minutes. “I was surprised at how easy Zero G was,” said someone. “It’s like swimming,” someone else agreed.
As ground crew swarmed the capsule and let the astronauts out, Mr Bezos could be clearly seen through the window grinning wildly and giving ecstatic thumbs up.
‘The best thing that has ever happened to me’
Back on the ground, Wally Funk appears to thank Bezos saying: “That’s the best thing that ever happened to me.”
Champagne is being popped, Oliver Daemen hugs his father, Jeff Bezos hugs his mother and father as he touches down.
Below are some incredible pictures of the moment of launch.
11 minutes start to finish
Jeff Bezos and the crew have just emerged from Blue Origins capsule, safely down to earth after giving a thumbs up. The
The capsule is returning by parachute
The capsule carrying Jeff Bezos is falling down to earth now with its parachutes at around 15mph. A minute of the flight is left. It will fall down to just 1mph to touchdown.
Booster is safely down
With a boom as it returns to earth through a sonic wall, the booster is landed.
Bezos says: “You have a very happy crew up here.”
One minute until return to earth
One minute warning. The crew have been instructed to begin returning to their seats. They only have around four minutes of weightlessness before they begin to return to earth. It is a tight turnaround.
Bezos replies as OK to mission control with “happy, happy, happy”.
Daemen says: “That was intense.”
We have passed the Karman line
We are a mere three minutes into this 11 minute flight.
There is audio from the cabin – mostly “woos” from the astronauts.
The crew capsule is unclipped and the rocket is almost at its maximum height.
The main engine is due to cut off and that will be followed by separation. The astronauts will then be able to unclip and start to enjoy weightlessness.
The vehicle is passing the point of maximum stress. The rocket is about to pass 1,000 miles per hour.
We have lift off
New Shepard has cleared the tower on its way to space with its first human crew, they are go to space. T+ 30 seconds now. The rocket is making its way into the upper atmosphere. Now at 10,000ft and counting.
We are just under T-minus 5 minutes
Last minute checks with the crew and mission control. At T-minus 2 minutes an auto launch sequence will begin for the vehicle.
We are minutes away from blasting off.
Timelines have edged back just slightly ahead of launch, and we are now looking at a launch time for 2.15pm BST.
And flight control says New Shepard is “go” for launch. The flight is now imminent.
A family message
Sarah Knights delivers a message from Jeff and Mark’s sister, Christina Bezos, reminiscing about Jeff and Mark playing as members of Star Trek, Jeff as Captain Kirk, Mark as Mr Sulu and Christina as Uhura.
And now we have a few details about Oliver Daemen’s life – a Thunderbirds fan as a child – who hopes to get more children interested in space and rocket travel with his journey. The physics student already has his pilots license and in a few minutes will be the youngest person to get their astronauts’ wings.
Live with mission control
We will be hearing from Sarah Knights, crew member seven and part of mission control for this Blue Origin mission.
The capsule is now sealed as the crew get ready for launch.
The crew are in the capsule
The four crew members have rung the ceremonial bell as they cross the tower and enter the cabin, where they will fasten up and go through a final series of checks. The capsule has large windows that should give the crew a view of the earth as they enter space. It looks pretty crowded in there with four crew.
We are now just T-minus 25 until launch everyone.
The astronauts start to ascend the crew tower
The four crew members are climbing up to enter the crew capsule, Wally, Jeff, Mark Bezos in his cowboy hat, and Oliver Daemen.
Nobody is as excited as Wally Funk
The octogenarian will today fulfil her dream of finally going into space, a goal she has held for decades. In fact, she trained to be an astronaut decades ago with Nasa, but was rejected along with a whole cohort of female astronauts. Today she is grinning from ear to ear.
“They told me, Wally you are a girl, you cannot do it,” she says. “I like to do things nobody has ever done.”
The astronauts are out
At T-minus minutes at the astronauts are out and on board a Rivian SUV ready to make their way to the launch pad.
Did Sir Richard Branson’s expedition actually count as space travel?
One bone of contention between Blue Origin and Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic is just what counts as space.
It is not a completely simple question. Nearly every country in the world considers 62 miles (100km) up to be the true boundary of space.
Known as the Karman line, it is the internationally recognised boundary. The line is named after Theodore von Kármán, Hungarian-American engineer born in 1881.
However, in the US, things are slightly different.
The US regards 50 miles (80 km) as the beginning of space for the purpose of giving pilots astronaut wings. This means that Sir Richard earned his wings earlier this month, despite not crossing the Karman line.
Today’s flight plan
Blue Origin’s crewed flight has been close to two decades in the making – which will all be over in just over 11 minutes.
After launching, the crew capsule will detach as the rocket crosses the Karman line, 100km up. The capsule will have three to four minutes of time where the crew can experience weightlessness.
It will then glide back down to earth on a parachute, before landing in New Mexico.
‘Would you put your kids on board’?
Lai is asked whether he would put his children on board, given how safe he says the vehicle is.
“We have succeeded and yes I would put my own kids on that vehicle,” Lai says.
On the launch pad, Blue Origin is getting ready to go, although it is still quite dark and pre-dawn so there is not a great deal to see just yet.
Blue Origin is safe, design chief says
Gary Lai, design director at Blue Origin, says the New Shepard is ready and safe to take passengers into space. The company has done 15 test launches, including multiple launches that involved escape releases where the Blue Origin’s crew capsule is fired off the top of the rocket either on the launch pad or in space if something starts to go wrong.
“The reason we know it is safe is we have done so much testing on the vehicle on the ground in much more stressing conditions. We test well beyond those conditions almost until we break it. It is going to take way more than what it will in flight. In a way the flight is easy for the vehicle.”
The astronauts are due to head to the rocket around T-minus 45 minutes ahead of the launch.
Blue Origin broadcasting live from Texas
Jeff Bezos’s team are now broadcasting live from Texas. Ariane Cornell, one of the Blue Origin communications team, is updating from the studio and Caitlin Dietrich from outside of the astronauts training centre where Bezos and the fellow astronauts will soon emerge.
There are dozens of the Blue Origin team also watching the launch from the company’s Azimov room – not a lot of social distancing or masks going on in there…
Meet Wally Funk, the oldest person to go into space
Nobody has waited longer than Wally Funk to get their chance at space flight. The 82-year-old, a former engineer and pilot, will join Mr Bezos on the historic flight today, becoming the oldest person to go into space.
Funk has been a qualified pilot for six decades, has said she is married to her plane, and was accepted when she was 21 into US’s “Women in Space” programme. But despite acing all the tests, including 10 hours in a sensory deprivation tank, she along with her fellow female applicants were barred from going into space.
Read Sue Nelson’s profile of the legendary aviator ahead of her greatest journey yet.
“I didn’t think I’d ever get to go up,” she said in a video interview after Bezos invited his “honoured guest” aboard the landmark flight. “No one has waited longer,” the Amazon and Blue Origin founder wrote in an Instagram post announcing his new crewmates.
One might say that, for Wally, to have waited a lifetime for a few minutes’ excitement, this might be a bittersweet conclusion. But there is no bitterness in her at all. For Wally, this will be ecstatically sweet.
New Shepard is on the launch pad
Blue Origin’s rocket, New Shepard, has moved into position ahead of the launch today that will see Bezos and its crew fired into space.
The name of the 59-ft rocket is a reference to Alan Shepard, the firsts American astronaut into space. New Shepard is officially a single stage rocket, with a single reusable rocket body and a crew capsule on top.
The capsule will be released and float briefly in the weightlessness of space before returning to earth. It has so far undertaken 15 launches.
The billion-dollar space tourism opportunity
Space tourism could be a $3bn a year industry by 2029 – but far larger if above the atmosphere voyages start challenging traditional long-haul flights, our industry editor Alan Tovey writes.
The prediction comes from UBS which believes “planetary space flight” could start eating into the market for flights lasting over 10 hours in conventional aircraft.
Working on data from before the pandemic hammered air travel, the bank’s analysts calculate that if the vehicles are available, 5pc of the current 800 routes which are 10 hours or longer could be serviced by spacecraft.
These vehicles would escape the atmosphere, slashing journey times, before returning to earth.
UBS believes if space travel takes just one in 20 of existing passengers at $2,500 per trip, the market would be worth $20bn a year.
Research by the bank found that 10pc of travellers would be willing to take a space flight for a long-haul route.
However, UBS cautions there are hurdles in the way, not least perfecting safe and effective technology, regulation, getting costs down to an acceptable level and consumer adoption.
The bank added: “While planetary travel could occur during the 2040s, we see it as potentially a lifetime commitment.”
Elon Musk sends his wishes
There may be a bitter rivalry between Mr Musk’s SpaceX and Starlink and Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin, but Musk sent his best wishes to Bezos ahead of the flight.
Taking to Twitter, Musk left a short note on Blue Origin’s image sharing its astronauts ready for launch.
Musk has previously accused the Amazon founder of trying to “hamstring” his own space efforts with lobbying and political backbiting.
But Musk, who one day hopes to die on Mars (“just not on impact”), is probably following today’s launch with interest. He met with Sir Richard Branson shortly before his own journey to the edge of space, and is said to have bought a ticket to fly with Virgin Galactic in the future.
And good luck from Sir Richard Branson
Blue Origin launch time and how to watch the flight
Here is everything you need to get up to speed on to watch today’s blast off:
- Launch time: Penciled in for 2pm BST, 8am local time
- Live stream starts: From 12.30pm, which you can watch live above
- Weather: Blue Origin is expecting clear skies for its launch
- How long? The flight is due to last 11 minutes – with around three to four minutes in space proper
- How high? 62-miles up – beyond the so-called Karman line of space
- Where? The launch takes place in West Texas at Launch Site One
Jeff Bezos prepares to make history with Blue Origin launch
Good morning. We are now just three hours from the scheduled launch time when Jeff Bezos is due to fly into space for the first time, a historic moment for private space travel and exploration.
Weather permitting, his Blue Origin rocket, New Shepard, will lift off around 2pm, around 8am local time, taking Mr Bezos and three others into space.
The rocket’s final stage is due to spend around 3 minutes in space, before falling back down to earth and landing by parachute.
We will be following all the updates and developments here, providing you with all the background. You can also watch a live stream of the launch live above.