Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man, soared about 66.5 miles (107 km) above the Texas desert aboard his company Blue Origin’s New Shepard here launch vehicle on Tuesday and returned safely to Earth, a historic suborbital flight that helps to inaugurate a new era of private commercial space tourism.
“Best day ever,” Bezos said after the space capsule touched down, kicking up a cloud of dust on the desert floor.
The 57-year-old American billionaire, wearing a blue flight suit and donning a cowboy hat, was joined by three crewmates for a trip to the edge of space lasting about 10 minutes and 20 seconds.
After landing and exiting the space capsule, Bezos and the other crew members exchanged hugs and popped champagne, spraying each other.
Bezos, founder of ecommerce company Amazon.com Inc, and his brother Mark Bezos, a private equity executive, were joined by two others.
Pioneering female aviator Wally Funk, 82, and recent high school graduate Oliver Daemen here&feedName=technologyNews, 18, become the oldest and youngest people to reach space.
The fully autonomous 60-foot-tall (18.3-meters-tall) gleaming white spacecraft, with a blue feather design on its side, ignited its BE-3 engines for a liftoff from Blue Origin’s Launch Site One facility about 20 miles (32 km) outside the rural town of Van Horn. There were generally clear skies with a few patchy clouds on a cool morning for the launch.
The flight came nine days after Briton Richard Branson was aboard his competing space tourism company Virgin Galactic’s successful inaugural suborbital flight here from New Mexico.
Bezos gave a thumbs-up sign from inside the capsule after landing on the desert floor. He stepped out to cheers from family members and Blue Origin employees and gave high-fives to some of the roughly two dozen people on hand.
He founded Blue Origin two decades ago. This was the company’s first crewed flight to space.
New Shepard was designed to hurtle at speeds upwards of 2,200 miles (3,540 km) per hour to an altitude reaching the so-called Kármán line – 62 miles (100 km) – set by an international aeronautics body as defining the boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and space.
After the capsule separated from the booster, the crew unbuckled for the few minutes of weightlessness. The capsule then returned to Earth under parachutes, using a retro-thrust system that expelled a “pillow of air” for a soft landing.
The mission was part of a fiercely competitive battle between Bezos’ Blue Origin and Branson’s Virgin Galactic to tap a potentially lucrative space tourism market the Swiss bank UBS estimates will be worth $3 billion annually in a decade.