If you’ve got a blank check and a dream, Jeff Bezos could send you to space.
Blue Origin, the Amazon founder’s aerospace company, announced Wednesday that it will auction off a single seat aboard its New Shepard rocket for a July 20 launch to space. This will be New Shepard’s first crewed launch, following a successful uncrewed mission that took place in mid-April.
The rocket can carry six passengers and the flight will last a mere 10 minutes, according to Blue Origin. Onboard will be five astronauts and one private passenger, who together will travel past the Kármán line, which many consider to be the boundary between space and the Earth’s atmosphere, about 62 miles above the planet’s surface.
The crew will experience weightlessness and views of a distant Earth. After a few minutes, the capsule will descend to Earth, and it will touch down at Blue Origin’s West Texas landing site. Both the rocket and the capsule are reusable.
How to buy a Blue Origin ticket
You can bid for a ticket on Blue Origin’s bidding platform. All bids will remain private until May 19, when Blue Origin plans to reveal both the bidders and their promised sums as part of a second round of public bidding. The process will finish in a live auction on June 12.
The money raised by the auction will go toward Blue Origin’s STEM education foundation, Club for the Future.
The news about the ticket is a departure from predictions about the ticket price for a seat on New Shepard that many pundits expected Blue Origin reveal Wednesday. Instead of setting a price itself, an auction means Blue Origin will ostensibly let the market decide the value of a seat on a space flight. But the historic flight’s eventual cost will likely be inflated as a result. Even when the sum the ticket sells for is finally announced, demand for any subsequent tickets are likely to outstrip the supply of rocket launches for years. Each New Shepard capsule can only ever hold six passengers, which means Blue Origin can only launch a few dozen people to space each year unless something radically changes about the company’s operation.
What is the difference between SpaceX and Blue Origin?
Commercial space travel is (obviously) a new market, so there isn’t a lot to compare in terms of what a reasonable price for a trip to space equates to. Blue Origin’s bidding process further muddies those waters.
SpaceX is the only private rocket company that has actually sent humans to space. Later this year, it plans to launch the first commercial trip to the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX rocket. Three men have paid $55 million each to take part in the 10-day journey as part of a mission conducted in connection with Axiom Space. The men will stay on the ISS for eight days and conduct experiments, according to the mission website. The $55 million price is all-inclusive, covering training, launch, and the daily cost of living on the ISS.
SpaceX has also chartered a commercial launch for late 2021 called Inspiration4. The mission is bankrolled by Jared Isaacman, who is bringing three other passengers with him on the journey. The cost of the three-day mission has not been disclosed.
Virgin Galactic, another private space company owned by Richard Branson, offers a little more to go on. The company has sold more than 600 people tickets to travel into space, and these customers have paid at least $250,000 per ticket for the privilege. But initial launches of the spacecraft supposed to take them there have failed, and even killed a Virgin Galactic pilot. Technical issues have plagued recent test attempts to launch, too. So you might pay more to fly with Blue Origin, but there’s perhaps a better chance you’ll get to see space at all.
Is it safe to go to space on a Blue Origin rocket? (Or any rocket?)
The opportunity to go to space is undeniably cool, and if you’re thinking about burning millions of dollars on a (very) brief trip to space, then some blogger likely isn’t going to change your mind.
But this is still an inherently risky purchase because rockets blow up sometimes. Just ask Elon Musk, whose Starship rocket prototypes explode all the time — this rocket is supposed to take humans to Mars one day. And while New Shephard has successfully launched and landed 15 test missions, it has never launched and landed with humans inside.
The commercial space race is just beginning, and while it might be exciting for the opportunity to be one of the first in space, the rest of us might want to wait until the kinks are ironed out — and the price drops.