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Billionaire Race: Bezos Aims to Be First to Visit Space


Jeff Bezos speaks at an event before unveiling Blue Origin's Blue Moon lunar lander in Washington, in this Thursday, May 9, 2019, file photo. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
Billionaire Race: Bezos Aims to Be First to Visit Space
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Three of the founders of America’s top private space companies have stated their personal desire to fly into space.

But only one will be first.

Jeff Bezos is head of the rocket company Blue Origin. He also founded the online store Amazon. Bezos has announced plans to make his wish come true next month on the company’s first human space flight. If successful, the 57-year-old would become the first person to ride his own company’s rocket into space.

Two other founders -- Elon Musk of SpaceX and Richard Branson of Virgin Galactic -- have said they also want to ride into space on a company-built spaceship.

"Ever since I was five years old, I've dreamed of traveling to space,” Bezos said in a message announcing his plans on Instagram. He said he would be making the trip with his brother, Mark. “On July 20th, I will take that journey with my brother. The greatest adventure, with my best friend,” Bezos said.

Joining the brothers will be at least one other passenger who is being chosen by an online auction. Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket and capsule can carry up to six people.

The spacecraft will take its passengers on a 10-minute flight to about 105 kilometers above Earth. That distance is a common international definition for the beginning of space, also known as the “Karman line.” The passengers are expected to spend about four minutes in this suborbital space, where they can experience weightlessness and observe the curvature of Earth.

The rocket will take off from Blue Origin’s launch center in a rural area of West Texas. After the capsule separates, the reusable rocket is designed to return to Earth and land in an upright position by itself. The capsule is designed to float back to the surface with three large parachutes.

In this image from video made available by Blue Origin, the New Shepard capsule uses parachutes to land during a test in West Texas on Wednesday, April 14, 2021. (Blue Origin via AP)
In this image from video made available by Blue Origin, the New Shepard capsule uses parachutes to land during a test in West Texas on Wednesday, April 14, 2021. (Blue Origin via AP)

Blue Origin said it has carried out 15 successful test flights of New Shepard, but none of those carried humans. The spacecraft is named after NASA astronaut Alan Shepard, the first American to go into space. The planned launch date is July 20. The date was chosen because it is the 52nd anniversary of the first moon landing by Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.

Bezos has said he will step down as Amazon’s chief 15 days before the launch. Earlier, he announced that he wanted to spend more time on projects for Blue Origin.

On its website, the company says its goal is to develop reusable launch vehicles for civilian and defense purposes. The Bezos flight will officially launch the company's space tourism business. The company has yet to start selling seats to the public or announce prices for the short trips.

Virgin Galactic founder Branson has said he also plans to ride into space on the company’s winged spacecraft later this year after one more test flight over the state of New Mexico. Virgin Galactic recently completed its third test flight into space with a crew.

The 70-year-old Branson offered congratulations to Bezos after his announcement. Branson tweeted that their two companies "are opening up access to space -- how extraordinary!”

Like Blue Origin, Branson's company plans to send space tourists to the lower levels of space. About 600 people have already planned flights, which cost up to $250,000.

Sir Richard Branson, right, founder of Virgin Galactic, and company executives gather for photos outside the New York Stock Exchange before his company's IPO, Monday, Oct. 28, 2019.
Sir Richard Branson, right, founder of Virgin Galactic, and company executives gather for photos outside the New York Stock Exchange before his company's IPO, Monday, Oct. 28, 2019.

Musk's SpaceX has already carried 10 astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA, the U.S. space agency. His company has also sold several seats on private space flights. SpaceX, however, has said its space tourism program aims to launch people into super high orbit – about 800 to 1,200 kilometers above Earth. The price for those trips is expected to cost millions of dollars.

Musk has not said when he might be ready to go to space himself. But he has predicted his company’s reusable spacecraft called Starship will one day carry people to the moon and Mars.

Musk has repeatedly said he wants “to die on Mars. Just not on impact.”

I’m Bryan Lynn.

Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on reports from The Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.

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Words in This Story

journeyn. an act of traveling from one place to another

adventuren. an exciting and sometimes dangerous experience

auctionn. a public sale at which things are sold to the people who offer to pay the most

capsulen. the part of a spacecraft that people can live in

curvaturev. the state of being curved or bent

tourismn. the activity of traveling to a place for pleasure

accessn. the right or ability to approach, enter or use

impactn. an act or event in which an object strikes another object

found –v. to begin, to create or establish something such as a business, organization or country

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