In a surprise announcement made via his Instagram account, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has revealed that both he and his brother, Mark Bezos, will join the crew and passengers when the Bezos-owned Blue Origin shuttle makes its first commercial flight into space on July 20.
Bezos and his brother will be accompanied by the winner of an online auction that Blue Origin is currently hosting to determine who will join them on the flight. Right now, the winning bid stands at $2.8MM. The Blue Origin launch of its suborbital, reusable New Shepard rocket will now be responsible for another famous first: the first time a billionaire has even been launched into space. Virgin Galactic, by contrast, has flown to space multiple times with test pilots and astronauts, though the company's founder, Sir Richard Branson, is expected to travel onboard during an upcoming trip. Elon Musk has never flown on a SpaceX launch, though he has suggested in the past that he will fly on one of his company’s vehicles at some point.
The video announcement was notably sentimental, beginning with Bezos waxing poetic about how seeing the Earth from orbit "changes you", before going on to state that his brother is his "best friend" and that he couldn't imagine taking the trip with anybody else.
As if auctioning off a seat on the vessel wasn't novel enough, the first commercial flight carrying civilians to space will also feature the world's richest man.
TechCrunch reminds us that Blue Origin’s New Shepard has flown many missions without a human crew, nearly all of which have been successful, except for the first flight, where the reusable booster was lost. As a reminder, the New Shepard rocket doesn’t go all the way to orbit, but instead flies to the edge of space, where passengers experience a few minutes of weightlessness and an unbeatable view of Earth through the capsule's many windows, before returning to a parachute-assisted landing on the ground in Texas near Blue Origin’s launch site.
The identity of the auction winner will soon be known. The final phase of the auction is set for June 12. It will include live online bidding from remaining participants who will compete to bump their existing bids to match the high offer.