Amazon founder Jeff Bezos handed out food for the gathered media at the launch site of his New Shepard space rocket in west Texas on Monday afternoon while joking with a reporter who asked if it was ‘his last meal’.
‘Did somebody say last meal?’ Bezos responded as he set out the food on a table. ‘I don’t think you have to put it that way!’ he joked. ‘Let’s talk about it in a different way!’ he said, to laughter.
The menu consisted of chicken thighs, mac ‘n’ cheese and black-eyed peas and is said to be a Bezos ‘family favorite’.
Earlier, Bezos agreed with critics who have described space flights such as his as simply ‘joyrides for the wealthy.’
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos handed out food for the gathered media at the launch site of his New Shepard space rocket in west Texas on Monday afternoon
Bezos joked with a reporter who asked if it was ‘his last meal’. ‘Did somebody say last meal?’ Bezos responded as he set out the food. ‘I don’t think you have to put it that way!’ he joked. ‘Let’s talk about it in a different way!’
The menu consisted of chicken thighs, mac ‘n’ cheese and black-eyed peas which is apparently a ‘family favorite’
Bezos praised the gathered press for working hard noting they were going to be up early on Tuesday for the launch
Bezos gave an interview to CNN on Monday where he addressed critics who argue the billionaire should instead be using his money to focus on problems on Earth instead of blasting off into space at a cost of tens of millions of dollars.
‘There have been a chorus of critics saying that these flights to space are just joyrides for the wealthy and that you should be spending your time and your money and energy trying to solve problems here on Earth. So what do you say to those critics?’ asked CNN’s Rachel Crane.
‘Well, I say they’re largely right. We have to do both,’ Bezos responded. ‘We have lots of problems here and now on Earth and we need to work on those, and we always need to look to the future. We’ve always done that as a species, as a civilization. We have to do both.’
Bezos explained that Blue Origin’s mission was to practice ‘operational space travel’ so that it might become comparable to commercial airline travel.
‘If we can do that then we’ll be building a road to space for the next generations to do amazing things there, and those amazing things will solve problems here on Earth…So, the real answer is, yes, we have to do both.’
The mission comes just over a week after fellow billionaire Richard Branson successfully launched into space aboard a winged rocket ship developed by his company Virgin Galactic.
Bezos appeared to agree with his critics but also justified the trip to space saying ‘we have to do both’ ‘We have lots of problems in the here and now on Earth and we need to work on those, and we always need to look to the future, we’ve always done that as a species, as a civilization. We have to do both,’ Bezos said
Blue Origin’s trip to space is about getting “really good at operational space travel,” Jeff Bezos says. “If we can do that, then we’ll be building a road to space for the next generations to do amazing things there. And those amazing things will solve problems here on Earth.” pic.twitter.com/dU6qAR2ZJB
On Monday, Bezos said that he was ‘ready’ for his flight to space as he appeared with his Blue Origin crewmates 24 hours before their scheduled lift-off from west Texas.
Bezos will fly up to 66 miles above the surface of the Earth on the fully autonomous rocket and capsule New Shepard, sending him 13 miles higher than billionaire rival Sir Richard Branson who flew to space on Sunday, July 11.
It is the first space flight that will include a paying passenger – 18-year-old Oliver Daemen whose Dutch billionaire father paid an undisclosed amount for his fare.
Bezos will also be joined by his brother Mark and 82-year-old aviation pioneer Wally Funk – who will be the oldest person to go to space.
The crew appeared in their astronaut uniforms at ‘Launch Site One’ in Van Horn, Texas, for a string of interviews on Monday morning where he said they were neither afraid nor nervous about the flight that would set a precedent for ‘commercial air travel’.
‘We’ll be building a road to space for the next generation to do amazing things and those amazing things will improve things here on Earth. I could have done this flight as CEO of Amazon and it would have been fine. We really believe this flight is safe. I did have friends say, ‘why not wait for the second or third flight, why do you have to go now?’
‘But we know the vehicle is safe and if it’s not safe for me then it’s not safe for anyone. But we’ve taken this one step at a time, our mascot is the tortoise… we are ready,’ he told CNN.
Speaking to Good Morning America shortly afterwards, Bezos said the ‘real goal’ was to establish reusable space vehicles that will take people to space ‘again and again’ and allow the next generation to use space resources to improve life on Earth.
‘What we’re hoping to do is build the road to space so future generations, maybe Oliver, and people of his generation will be able to do amazing things in space if we get good as reusable vehicles. The big thing Blue Origin is doing is making these vehicles reusable and in an operable way so that they can go over and over again, more like commercial airliners. If we can get to that stage, then the things the next generation will do – how to benefit Earth with everything in space – that will be amazing. That’s the real goal.’
It will be the first human flight launched by space company, Blue Origin, and will take off tomorrow, July 20, from ‘Launch Site One’ in Van Horn, Texas, with a live stream of the event starting at 7:30 EDT / 12:30 BST.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos said on Monday morning that he was ‘ready’ for his flight to space as he appeared in a series of interviews with his Blue Origin teammates, 24 hours before liftoff. He was joined by his brother Mark, 82-year-old aviation pioneer Wally Funk – who will be the oldest person to go to space – and 18-year-old Oliver Daemen, whose private equity boss father paid for his flight after an anonymous bidder who’d spent $25million on a seat had to drop out due to a scheduling conflict.
The team will fly aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket on Tuesday at 9am EST, 2pm GMT. They will float in zero gravity space for 10 minutes before returning to Earth
Jeff Bezos and his brother Mark fist bump in excitement on Monday morning as they prepare for their flight to space on Tuesday morning
Bezos is shown with Oliver Daemen and his brother in a simulated version of the capsule inside New Shepard, which they will use tomorrow
‘It’s so exciting. Tomorrow morning this crew is going to go to space.
‘But I don’t know what it’s going to mean for me. Everyone who’s gone to space says it changes them in some way and I am just really excited to see how it’s going to change me.
TEAM BLUE ORIGIN: MARK BEZOS, AVIATION HERO WALLY FUNK AND A DUTCH TEEN WHOSE DAD PAID FOR HIS FLIGHT
Oliver Daemen, Wally Funk, Jeff Bezos and Mark Bezos
Mark Bezos, 53
The Amazon founder’s brother has a private equity firm HighPost Capital and is also a volunteer firefighter.
Bezos said they are the ‘closets of friends’ and have spent their whole lives talking about going to space.
The pair also have a sister, Christina, who is not taking part in the mission.
He said he was ‘awestruck’ to have been asked by his brother to join him on the flight.
‘What a remarkable opportunity, not only to have this adventure, but to be able to do it with my best friend.
Wally Funk, 82
Funk was one of 13 women who passed NASA’s astronaut training program in the 1960s.
Then a 21-year-old pilot, she was the youngest of the 13 women who passed the same rigorous testing as the Mercury Seven male astronauts in NASA’s program that first sent Americans into space between 1961 and 1963, but were denied the chance to become astronauts themselves because of their gender.
Funk was one of 13 women who passed NASA’s astronaut training program in the 1960s.
At 82, she will be the oldest person to go to space on Tuesday.
She said in an interview about the mission: ‘I didn’t think I’d ever get to go up!’
She was also the first female flight instructor at a U.S. military base and the first woman to become an air safety investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board.
Oliver Daemen, 18
Oliver Daemen, 18
Daemen is the son of financier Joes Daemen, the founder and CEO of Dutch private equity firm Somerset Capital Partners, who paid for the seat and chose to let fly Oliver instead.
‘I am super excited to go to space,’ Oliver said in a video message. ‘I’ve been dreaming about this all my life and I will become the youngest astronaut ever because I’m 18 years old. I am super excited to experience zero G.
Oliver will be the ‘first paying customer’ Blue Origin said in an email, flying to the edge of space, alongside Bezos, his brother Mark, aviation pioneer Mary Wallace ‘Wally’ Funk and two other passengers.
The company said Oliver ‘has been fascinated by space, the Moon and rockets since he was four’.
A Blue Origin spokesperson told DailyMail.com they are not disclosing the price paid for Oliver’s seat, but confirmed he participated in the auction.
‘People say they see the thin rim of Earth’s atmosphere and it teaches them how fragile and precious is and it teaches them boundaries… I don’t know what it’s going to do but I am excited to find out.
‘I am not nervous. We’ve had 15 successful flights. I am excited but I am not nervous,’ he said.
To prepare for the historic launch, on the 52nd anniversary of the first moon landing, they had to test every aspect of the rocket ‘far beyond operational testing’ to ensure it is both robust and safe.
All four of the crew to travel aboard New Shepherd are at Launch Site One ready for the trip, with Bezos warmly welcoming Wally Funk and Oliver Daemen to the facility in a video uploaded to his Instagram account.
The rocket has been successfully flown 15 times, but this will be the first with humans on board.
On Monday, Funk – who was the youngest woman to pass NASA’s training in the 1960s aged 21 – said: ‘I had a lot of training those weeks before in 1960… not only in America but I went to Russia and trained with the cosmonauts.
‘Not until about two or three weeks after my training was I told that I did better than the men.
‘I feel like I am 24! It’s great. I love being here!’
She said she was most looking forward to doing ‘summersaults in space.’
Bezos joked: ‘We’ve been training with Wally here in west Texas and I can tell you, she is still doing better than the men. She can outrun all of us.’
Oliver Daemen’s private equity boss father paid for his flight.
It’s unclear how much but he was the runner-up in an auction in which the winner paid $28million for the seat, before having to drop out.
He said on Monday morning: ‘I don’t think I’ve realized yet how special it is to become the youngest person ever. It’s such a opportunity.. .also to be an example for other kids that it is able now. Blue Origin has made the opportunity for more and more people to go. It’s so amazing, I still can’t believe it.’
Mark Bezos said he was ‘thrilled’ to have been asked by his brother to join him on the flight.
‘Jeff and I have gone on a lot of adventures together. He’s my best friend. I was just, over the moon so to speak. It was remarkable.
‘I’m so excited to be there to support him, and representing our mom, dad and sister Christina. It is just an absolute thrill.’
There won’t be anywhere nearby to watch the launch in person, but Bezos said they will stream the 10 minute trip, including four minutes of zero gravity, on the Blue Origin website.
New Shepard will fire its engines to get off the launch pad and get the capsule up to the edge of space. They will experience forced three times normal levels which will pin them to their seats.
It will take three minutes to get high enough for the rocket booster to fall away, leaving the capsule to arc above the Earth and put them in a weightless environment.
That will give them three to four minutes to float about the cabin and enjoy the curving Earth through the large windows, before they have to get back into their seats as gravity pulls them back down to the Earth.
Parachutes will slow their plunge, taking it to a gentle landing in the Texas desert where a recovery crew will collect them.
Bezos – who has an estimated personal worth of $186.2 billion (£131.5 billion) – is one of a number of billionaire entrepreneurs fueling what has been dubbed the ‘new space race’, with each pumping billions of dollars into their respective start-ups with the aim of creating cheap, commercialized space travel.
He founded Blue Origin in September 2000 and is currently funding the company to the tune of about $1 billion per year through the sale of his shares in Amazon.
His launch into space is the culmination of more than two decades of work for Bezos, that will see him blast into space on the first crewed flight of his New Shepard rocket ship.
Blue Origin named the New Shepard program after astronaut Alan Shepard, who was the first American to fly into space 60 years ago.
The flight will mark a huge milestone in the mission to send paying customers to the edge of space, and continue a rapid expansion of the space tourism industry.
‘Ever since I was five years old, I’ve dreamed of traveling to space,’ Bezos posted to his Instagram account, adding that he want to go on the 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.’
His brother added: ‘I wasn’t even expecting him to say that he was going on the first flight.
‘And then when he asked me to go along, I was just awestruck. What a remarkable opportunity, not only to have this adventure, but to be able to do it with my best friend.’
He will be joined in the automated Blue Origin capsule by two others, in addition to his brother, Wally Funk and student Oliver Daemen.
Daemen is an 18-year-old from the Netherlands, and will become the youngest astronaut ever and the first paying space tourist on a US commercial space flight.
While Richard Branson won the race to be the first billionaire space firm founder in space, Blue Origin are taking up the first paying passenger in Daemen, whose father made the second highest bid in a ticket auction.
Bezos and his younger brother Mark on Monday morning. Mark said he was awestruck and ‘thrilled’ to have been asked by his brother to join him on the flight. The pair describe themselves as best friends and say they’ve talked about going to space their whole lives
Ready for liftoff: Oliver, whose father paid an undisclosed amount for his fare after someone else dropped out after forking out $28million, said he was an ‘example for other kids now’ that space travel is possible. Wally Funk trained in the 1960s to be an astronaut before the women’s space program was canceled. She said she was better than the male astronauts then, and Bezos said she can still ‘outrun’ the rest of the crew
The sign outside of Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin operations in West Texas on July 19, 2021 in Van Horn, Texas
The gate to Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin operations in West Texas on July 19, 2021 in Van Horn, Texas. Mr. Bezos is scheduled to lift off from the launch pad at 8am local time (9am EST/2pm GMT) on Tuesday in Blue Origin’s sub-orbital New Shepard rocket in the first human spaceflight for his company
Oliver took the seat on the July 20 flight after the anonymous winning bidder decided to fly on a future New Shepard mission instead, due to undisclosed scheduling conflicts, Blue Origin said.
‘I am super excited to go to space,’ Oliver said in a video message.
Sir Richard Branson’s message to ‘the next generation of dreamers’ after returning from space
I have dreamt about this moment since I was a child, but nothing could have prepared me for the view of Earth from space. It was magical.
I was honored to test the incredible customer experience onboard Virgin Galactic’s spaceship VSS Unity as part of this remarkable crew of mission specialists – and now astronauts.
How you feel when you look down on Earth is impossible to put into words, it’s just indescribable beauty. I can’t wait for you all to get up there.
My mission statement, which I wrote inside my spacesuit, is to turn the dream of space travel into a reality – for my grandchildren, for your grandchildren, for everyone.
I said a message to all children while I was in space: I was once a child with a dream looking up to the stars. Now I’m an adult in a spaceship looking down to our beautiful Earth. To the next generation of dreamers: if we can do this, just imagine what you can do.
Having flown to space, I can see even more clearly how Virgin Galactic is the spaceline for Earth.
We are here to make space more accessible to all and turn the next generation of dreamers into the astronauts of today and tomorrow.
Imagine a world where people of all ages and backgrounds, from anywhere, of any gender, of any ethnicity have equal access to space. They will in turn, inspire us all back here on Earth.
If you’ve ever had a dream, now is the time to make it come true. Welcome to the dawn of a new space age.
‘I’ve been dreaming about this all my life and I will become the youngest astronaut ever because I’m 18 years old.
‘I am super excited to experience zero G.’
The auction gift has allowed Club for the Future to donate $1 million each to 19 non-profit organizations, which are all supporting living and working in space.
The other passenger on the flight will be aviation pioneer Mary Wallace ‘Wally’ Funk, one of the last surviving members of the Mercury 13 mission.
At the age of 82, Funk will become the oldest person to launch into space and surpass former Senator John Glenn who took a space shuttle flight in 1998 at the age of 77.
Mercury 13, or the First Lady Astronaut Trainees, were a group of 13 women pilots who were qualified to go to space, but were excluded due to their gender.
While in training, Funk scored higher than Glenn – who was one of the Mercury 7 astronauts chosen to fly on Project Mercury in the 1960s – on some astronaut testing.
In a video for Blue Origin, Funk recalled: ‘They told me that I had done better and completed the work faster than any of the guys.
So I got ahold of NASA, four times. I said I want to become an astronaut, but nobody would take me. I didn’t think that I would ever get to go up.’
She said people told her ‘Wally, you’re a girl, you can’t do that. I said guess what, doesn’t matter what you are, you can still do it if you want to do it.’
The launch site for Blue Origin’s first human flight will be in a remote location north of Van Horn, Texas, where the firm has launched New Shepard for previous flights.
The July 20 launch – which coincides with the anniversary of the moon landing – will be the first test of Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket with people on board, kicking off the company’s space tourism business.
On Monday, Blue Origin received approval Monday from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to carry humans on the New Shepard rocket into space on July 20.
New Shepard, which stands 60 feet tall, was specifically designed for Blue Origin’s space tourism venture and has successfully completed 15 test launches, with the latest on April 14.
The capsule that rides atop New Shepard seats six passengers and is equipped with reclining seats.
Each of the seats has a window that are said to the ‘the largest to fly into space.’
Cameras line the interior, allowing travelers to share their memories that are truly out of this world.
Jeff Bezos (left) welcomes auction runner-up Oliver Daemen (centre) to Launch Centre One in Texas ahead of the trip
Wally Funk (left) takes a hat from Jeff Bezos (centre) as they prepare for the first crewed Blue Origin flight on July 20
The crew of four will fly above 80 miles to pass the Karman line abord the Blue Origin New Shepard rocket from Texas
The two Bezos brothers – seen here in a video posted to Jeff’s Instagram – will be part of a crew of six on New Shepard
The crew is set to travel 62 miles above Earth’s surface, where they will experience weightlessness due to the zero gravity and see the curve of the planet with the darkness of space as the backdrop.
It is not clear how long they will spend just beyond the edge of space, but Blue Origin has stated in the past that paying customers will spend as much as 10 minutes in zero gravity before returning to Earth.
The billionaire space race is fueled by optimism that space travel will become mainstream as nascent technology is proven and costs fall, fueling what UBS estimates could be a $3 billion annual tourism market by 2030.
Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, as well as Musk’s SpaceX, have also discussed using their rockets to link far-flung global cities.
UBS says that long-haul travel market could be worth more than $20 billion, though several barriers such as air-safety certification could derail the plans.
Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas said: ‘Putting the world’s richest man and one of the most recognized figures in business into space is a massive advertisement for space as a domain for exploration, industrialization and investment.’
This undated handout photo obtained May 19, 2021, courtesy of Blue Origin, shows the interior of the Blue Origin Crew Capsule
Virgin billionaire Richard Branson successfully flew to space on July 11 on SpaceShip Two Unity 22. He went 53 miles above Earth’s surface – 13 miles less than Bezos plans to travel on Tuesday
Branson is shown floating in zero gravity on board Unity after reaching the edge of space above Spaceport America near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, U.S. July 11, 2021
Elon Musk’s SpaceX is leading the billionaire space race. He has already sent two crews of astronauts to the international space station, including those who flew on May 2 (above). He is yet to go to space himself
The announcement from Bezos comes two months after Musk trolled him on Twitter, joking that he ‘can’t get it up (to orbit)’, after Blue Origin filed a protest against NASA for giving SpaceX a $2.89billion contract to build a lunar lander.
The pair have also sparred publicly over their competing satellite plans. In January Musk again took aim at Bezos on Twitter, accusing the Amazon founder’s Project Kuiper of trying to ‘hamstring’ his Starlink venture.
HOW JEFF BEZOS IS SPENDING BILLIONS OF HIS OWN MONEY TO BUILD BLUE ORIGIN AND WIN THE BILLIONAIRE SPACE RACE
Amazon founder and outgoing CEO Jeff Bezos entered the space sector in 2000, two years before SpaceX was formed by Elon Musk.
Based in Kent, Washington, it originally focused on sub-orbital spaceflight services, building cheaper, more reliable and reusable launch vehicles.
They are gradually moving from suborbital to orbital flight in an incremental way and will launch humans to space on July 20.
Bezos will be on that first crewed flight along with his brother Mark, the winner of the auction, and three members of Blue Origin staff.
The firm currently has two launch vehicles, the suborbital New Shepherd, named for the first American in space, Alan Shepherd, and New Glenn, named for John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth.
Bezos has announced they are also working on New Armstrong, after the first man on the Moon, Neil Armstrong, although no details have been revealed.
SpaceX is due to launch the world’s first all-civilian space mission on September 15. Called Inspiration4, it will go further than either Virgin Galactic or Blue Origin by soaring into orbit around the Earth.
It will feature a four-person team, launched on a Crew Dragon spaceship atop a Falcon 9 rocket, under the command of billionaire CEO of Shift4 Payments Jared Isaacman.
The other three on-board will be Sian Proctor, a community college educator in Arizona, Chris Sembroski, a former Air Force missileman from Washington, and Hayley Arceneaux, a physician assistant at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Tennessee.
Dubbed Inspiration4, its mission is designed primarily to raise awareness and support for the pediatric cancer centre, which successfully treated Arceneaux for bone cancer when she was a child.
Virgin Galactic, meanwhile, is aiming for commercial operations aboard its VSS Unity spacecraft to begin next year, following testing and several months of downtime for maintenance and other upgrades.
The company is expected to charge more than $250,000 for new reservations but has not announced final pricing. Bezos is expected to charge about $200,000 for a ticket with Blue Origin.
The two Bezos brothers will be part of a crew of six on New Shepard, along with the highest bidder from the public auction. The remaining places will be taken by Blue Origin staff.
According to the company’s website, the highest bid from the public for the exclusive spot is $28 million, although the winning bidder decided to delay and go on a later flight.
Blue Origin touts itself as a means to provide cheaper access to space through the use of reusable rockets – specifically the New Shepard, which has already flown 15 times.
This is similar to the mission of SpaceX, which has already moved on to orbital and larger format rockets and successfully launched astronauts to the space station.
The Blue Origin New Shepherd rocket’s sole mission is to take tourists to space, who would travel inside a sleek, white capsule atop the vehicle.
The capsule is designed with the iconic Blue Origin feather across the exterior and inside are six reclining seats that mirror those inside a helicopter.
Blue Origin’s grand plans are to send tourists who pay vast amounts of money 62 miles above Earth’s surface as they float in orbit.
At this altitude, passengers will experience weightlessness due to the zero gravity and see the curve of the planet with the darkness of space as the backdrop.
This is similar to the mission profile of Virgin Galactic, which, instead of launching its spaceship from the ground on a large rocket, flies up 44,000ft on a mothership, is released and then fires rockets to travel up to about 60 miles altitude.
Bezos has bigger ambitions for Blue Origin, with the New Glenn rocket currently scheduled for launch in 2022, it is a two stage launch vehicle enabling heavier lift launches to orbit and even reach the moon.
The firm are also working on New Armstrong, named after the first man to walk on the Moon, but haven’t unveiled any specific details about the rocket.
Speculation is that it will have a larger profile than New Glenn, able to carry more.
Unlike Musk, whose very public goal is to make humanity a multi-planetary species with bases on Mars by 2050, Bezos is a supporter of larger space stations with artificial habitats, which could be one of the reasons for the rumoured development of the larger New Armstrong rocket.
THE BILLIONAIRE SPACE RACE: HOW BRANSON, MUSK AND BEZOS ARE VYING FOR GALACTIC SUPREMACY
Jeff Bezos in front of Blue Origin’s space capsule
Dubbed the ‘NewSpace’ set, Jeff Bezos, Sir Richard Branson and Elon Musk all say they were inspired by the first moon landing in 1969, when the US beat the Soviet Union in the space race, and there is no doubt how much it would mean to each of them to win the ‘new space race’.
Amazon founder Bezos had looked set to be the first of the three to fly to space, having announced plans to launch aboard his space company Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft on July 20.
The billionaire mogul will travel with his younger brother Mark, a charity auction winner who’s shelling out $28 million and pioneering female astronaut Wally Funk, 82.
However, Branson has now announced he’s planning to make a suborbital flight nine days before Bezos and his brother. He revealed on Twitter that he plans to be Astronaut 001 on Virgin Galactic’s July 11 test flight.
Although SpaceX and Tesla founder Musk has said he wants to go into space, and even ‘die on Mars’, he has not said when he might blast into orbit.
SpaceX appears to be leading the way in the broader billionaire space race with numerous launches carrying NASA equipment to the ISS and partnerships to send tourists to space by 2021.
On February 6 2018, SpaceX sent rocket towards the orbit of Mars, 140 million miles away, with Musk’s own red Tesla roadster attached.
Elon Musk with his Dragon Crew capsule
NASA has already selected two astronauts who will be on-board the first manned Dragon mission.
SpaceX has also started sending batches of 60 satellites into space to help form its Starlink network.
Musk hopes this will provide an interconnected web of satellites around Earth which will beam down free internet to people worldwide.
Branson and Virgin Galactic are taking a different approach to conquering space. It has repeatedly, and successfully, conducted test flights of the Virgin Galactic’s Unity space plane.
The first took place in December 2018 and the latest on May 22, with the flight accelerating to more than 2,000 miles per hour (Mach 2.7).
More than 600 affluent customers to date, including celebrities Brad Pitt and Katy Perry, have reserved a $250,000 (£200,000) seat on one of Virgin’s space trips.
Branson has previously said he expects Elon Musk to win the race to Mars with his private rocket firm SpaceX.
Richard Branson with the Virgin Galactic craft
SpaceShipTwo can carry six passengers and two pilots. Each passenger gets the same seating position with two large windows – one to the side and one overhead.
The space ship is 60ft long with a 90inch diameter cabin allowing maximum room for the astronauts to float in zero gravity.
It climbs to 50,000ft before the rocket engine ignites. SpaceShipTwo separates from its carrier craft, White Knight II, once it has passed the 50-mile mark.
Passengers become ‘astronauts’ when they reach the Karman line, the boundary of Earth’s atmosphere.
The spaceship will then make a suborbital journey with approximately six minutes of weightlessness, with the entire flight lasting approximately 1.5 hours.
Bezos revealed in April 2017 that he finances Blue Origin with around $1 billion (£720 million) of Amazon stock each year.
The system consists of a pressurised crew capsule atop a reusable ‘New Shepard’ booster rocket.
Bezos is one of the richest men in the world and Blue Origin has successfully flown the New Shepard rocket 15 times.
At its peak, the capsule reached 65 miles (104 kilometres), just above the official threshold for space and landed vertically seven minutes after liftoff.
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