On Tuesday, Jeff Bezos opened the doors to the secretive Blue Origin headquarters to the press for the first time, leading journalists around the facility he says may make commercial space tourism possible as early as 2018.
Bezos’ open house event was a rarity, as Blue Origin has been much less transparent about their space exploration goals than their main competition, Elon Musk’s Space X. The two internet billionaires, space pioneers, and mega-nerd frenemies have been competing in the private space race for the past few years. While Blue Origin was the first to land a reusable rocket after launching it into space, Musk was quick to point out that the companies have different goals — Space X rockets want to send payloads into orbit, while Blue Origin’s primary goal is to get reusable flights into the outer atmosphere for tourism.
And, according to Bezos’, Blue Origin is close. According to The New York Times, Blue Origin’s reusable New Shepard spacecraft will make another launch in the near future. If that goes well, Bezos said he might start ferrying paying tourists in groups of six for a once-in-a-lifetime trip to outer space as soon as 2018.
And this is just a short term goal. Bezos’ long term goals may align much more closely to Musk’s — both billionaires envision permanent civilizations outside of Earth. They’re also both working together on a top secret project to stop Donald Trump, after he got on both of their bad sides through typically Trumpy power moves.
Politics is still second to innovation, though — Bezos also showed off the company’s new BE-4 rocket engine, which he hopes to sell to other aerospace companies and use to power a new rocket capable of carrying heavier payloads into space, meeting Space X’s ambitions to develop sustainable ways to re-supply spacecraft or satellites in orbit.