Billionaire Jeff Bezos has returned from a joy flight into space. He says he came to a “profound” realization above the Earth’s atmosphere.
The richest man on the planet, Jeff Bezos, has described his brief trip to space as “the first step of something big” after blasting off aboard a Blue Origin rocket on its first human flight.
The rocket launched from a base in the west Texas desert at 8:12am on Tuesday local time (11:12pm AEST) and hit speeds of 3700km/h as it shot towards space.
The capsule separated from its booster and crossed the Karman line, the internationally recognized boundary between Earth and space, at 100km of altitude.
A quick 11 minutes after takeoff, it landed back on Earth. The trip was timed to coincide with the 52nd anniversary of the first moon landing. Bezos was joined by his brother Mark, 82-year-old aviator Wally Funk, and 18-year-old Oliver Daemen, who won his seat in an auction, making him Blue Origin’s “first paying customer”.
Blue Origin has not disclosed how much he paid. Funk, a barrier-breaking female pilot, completed testing in the 1960s as part of the Women in Space Program but stopped going to space by her gender.
RELATED: 18-year-old goes to space with Jeff Bezos
The four-person crew appeared at a media conference after returning to Earth. Jeffrey Ashby, a former space shuttle commander who now works as Blue Origin’s chief of mission assurance, presented each of them with their “wings” – a badge signifying their visit to space.
Ashby described Funk, Daemen, and the Bezos brothers as “the first four of millions to follow”. “I’m so happy. Thank you, Jeff,” Bezos said as he accepted his badge. “There are few people I know more deserving of this, Jeff. Seriously,” said Ashby. “And I don’t know what you’re going to do next, but I can’t wait to watch.”
RELATED: Petition calls for Bezos to visit space and ‘stay there.’
Once it was his turn to speak, Bezos started by thanking a list of people, including the engineers, trainers, and safety experts who made the flight possible. “I want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer because you guys paid for all this,” he added, getting a laugh from the crowd.
“Seriously, for every Amazon customer out there and every Amazon employee, thank you from the bottom of my heart, very much. It’s very appreciated.” He then described how flying to space and experiencing zero gravity had made him feel. Oh my god! My expectations were high, and they were dramatically exceeded,” Bezos said.
“It felt so typical. Almost like we were, as humans, evolved to be in that environment. Which I know is impossible. But it felt so serene, peaceful, and floating – it’s actually much nicer than being in full gravity. It’s a very pleasurable experience. “The most profound piece of it, for me, was looking out at the Earth and looking at the Earth’s atmosphere.
“Every astronaut, everybody who’s been up into space, they say this, that it changes them. And they look at it, and they’re kind of amazed and awestruck by the Earth and its beauty, but also by its fragility. And I can vouch for that.
“When you get up above (the atmosphere), what you see is it’s actually fragile. It’s this tiny little fragile thing. And as we move about the planet, we’re damaging it.
“It’s one thing to recognize that intellectually, and it’s another thing to see with your own eyes how fragile it really is. And that was amazing.