Blue Origin: five questions about billionaire Jeff Bezos’ first flight in space

After Richard Branson on July 11, Jeff Bezos will become, Tuesday July 20, the second billionaire to carry out a suborbital flight aboard a rocket from his company Blue Origin. For the founder of Amazon, “it’s about building a road to space so that future generations can do incredible things there” and colonize the space for relieve the planet’s resources. Still, a real space race is at work among several civil societies, in which we also find Elon Musk, the creator of Tesla and SpaceX. Franceinfo looks back on the specifics of this Blue Origin mission.

How will this theft go?

The New Shepard rocket developed by Blue Origin is not on its first test, but this time it is a manned flight. The launch is scheduled for 8 a.m. (local time) and therefore at 3 p.m. (Paris time) from a site in the desert of Texas in the United States.

The rocket will then perform an ascending flight to reach an altitude of 106 km, or six kilometers beyond the Karman Line, which constitutes the internationally recognized limit between Earth and space – this flight will therefore go higher by nearly 20 km than that of Richard Branson on July 11.

The crew will spend eleven minutes in zero gravity, then the capsule will return in free fall before deploying three large parachutes. A back-propeller will then be triggered to make a landing not far from the launch site.

Who is on the crew?

In addition to the 57-year-old Amazon founder, three other passengers will be on board the New Shepard rocket. First there is the billionaire’s little brother, Mark Bezos, an advertising man six years his junior.

Wally Funk, an 82-year-old aviation pioneer, is the third passenger. This American was part of the “Mercury 13”, a project set up in the 1960s by NASA to demonstrate the interest of women in the conquest of space, without them ultimately being part of it.

The last passenger is Olivier Daemen, an 18-year-old Dutchman, the son of an investment fund boss. The youngster replaces the initial winner of the online auctions set up to be Blue Origin’s first paying traveler, which is ultimately unavailable.

Are other launches planned?

Blue Origin has two more launches scheduled for this year, and many starting next year, according to the company. Jeff Bezos retired from his duties at Amazon in February to devote himself to Blue Origin in particular. Ultimately, like Elon Musk with SpaceX and Richard Branson with Virgin Galactic, the richest man in the world wants to develop space tourism.

How much does this ticket cost for the stars?

This first flight was auctioned for the fourth passenger seat for 28 million dollars (23.7 million euros). The next flights should be less expensive, between 200,000 and 250,000 dollars. Sums comparable to the company Virgin Galactic, but far from the costs of SpaceX whose first orbital flight would cost 55 million dollars (46 million euros) per passenger.

Why is this mission criticized?

As with the flights of its competitors, the environmental impact of these ephemeral trips is regularly criticized. “Is anyone else alarmed that billionaires engage in their own private space race as record-breaking heat waves cause a ‘fire-breathing cloud dragon’ and kill sea creatures in their tracks? shell? “ asked Robert Reich, former Secretary of State to Bill Clinton.

The scientific community is also alarmed. “A long-haul plane flight represents one to three tonnes of carbon dioxide [par passager]”, explains Elois Marais in The Guardian. This associate professor in physical geography at University College London explains in particular that a rocket launch for four people represents between 200 to 300 tonnes of CO2.

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