Thursday, January 20

New Shepard: Jeff Bezos’ flight into space aboard the Blue Origin ship, live | Science


Eleven minutes. The tycoon Jeff Bezos, accompanied by his brother Mark, the pioneer Wally Funk and the young Oliver Daemen will make a flight today of less than a quarter of an hour, but that will serve to fulfill his personal and commercial objective: to travel into space with his own ship. . In those 11 minutes, it will overcome the 100-kilometer-high barrier, the space frontier, and will remain weightless for four minutes, before returning to Earth. All this is not a great milestone in the history of astronautics, but it is undoubtedly an important step in the field of space tourism: it will be the first unmanned flight with a totally civilian crew.

However, this flight involves several interesting anecdotal records. Funk, an 82-year-old pilot who belonged to the group of women Mercury 13, aspiring astronauts in 1961, becomes the oldest person to fly into space, ousting veteran John Glenn, who did so at 77. This pioneer, who has been waiting for his opportunity for 60 years, is therefore the most prepared person in the entire passage. The 18-year-old Daemen, the son of a rich Dutchman, makes him the youngest astronaut in history. And the Bezos are the first siblings to meet in space, after the meeting of twins Mark and Scott Kelly on the International Space Station was thwarted. Of course, Jeff Bezos does not manage to become the first businessman to fly off Earth with his own company (Blue Origin), since his rival, Richard Branson, achieved it nine days ago aboard one of the Virgin Galactic aircraft. .

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Thus, we already have the three tycoons with their space rockets in full swing. Bezos and Branson with their modest suborbital trips, for now, to satisfy the bug of millionaire tourists, although they have plans to go further. The two add to Elon Musk’s successes with SpaceX, which focuses on much more ambitious spaceflight, such as taking astronauts to the International Space Station. Musk is also preparing a flight similar to those of Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin for September, Inspiration4, with an all-civilian crew financed by another millionaire: Jared Isaacman.

This first manned space flight of the ship New Shepard, piloted by computer, is the first trip of the Blue Origin company with a space tourist who has paid for his seat. Young Daemen’s father was the second-highest bidder at the auction Bezos launched to find his first flight mate. The millionaire who made the best bid, almost 24 million euros, will not take this flight due to scheduling problems and will do so on a later one.

To the spatial frontier

The rocket propels the capsule about 30 kilometers high, from where it continues alone up to 100 kilometers, the line that marks the international beginning of space. Branson only reached 85 kilometers, just above the US threshold of 80 for space. This means that, being purists, Branson has only been the first to reach the gates of space.

Upon reaching the highest point, the occupants of the New Shepard they are released from their seat belts to enjoy floating for a few minutes without diving suits, since the craft is pressurized like a conventional airplane. After the enjoyment of weightlessness, the capsule deploys a large column of parachute to slow its fall to the ground, while the rocket is propelled again with its engines to achieve a vertical landing, similar to those made by rockets. Falcon 9 de Musk.

The New Shepard, whose name pays tribute to the one who was the first American astronaut (Alan Shepard, in 1961), is a rocket designed for suborbital flights, that is, it does not intend to even go around planet Earth. But it has important comforts: the cabin space is double that of the capsule Apollo with which they traveled to the Moon. It has been successfully tested 15 times from Bezos’s facilities in Texas (USA), and has six comfortable seats for as many passengers, although this time only four have been occupied.

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