Billionaire Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and his fellow astronauts have started the training process ahead of their flight to the edge of space on Tuesday, Blue Origin officials announced at a press conference Sunday, two days ahead of the launch.
The process for Bezos, who founded Blue Origin in 2000, and the other astronauts involves two full days of “very concise training,” said Ariane Cornell, the director of astronaut and orbital sales at Blue Origin. Bezos and his fellow soon-to-be space travelers all met each other in West Texas within the past 48 hours, Cornell said. They are currently staying at an astronaut village not far from the launch site, she added.
The anonymous person whose $28 million bid won a seat on what will be Blue Origin’s first manned flight had “scheduling conflicts” and will not be on the New Shepherd flight when it launches this week.
Instead, Bezos will travel to space with the ship’s crew, his brother, Mark Bezos, 84-year-old aviator Wally Funk, and 18-year-old Oliver Daemen, who replaced the top bidder. The New Shepard flight will make history, bringing aboard the youngest and oldest-ever US astronauts.
The New Shepard will travel to the imaginary boundary 62 miles (100 kilometers) above sea level known as the Kármán line, where experts say space begins, as Insider’s Morgan McFall-Johnsen previously reported. Passengers are expected to experience weightlessness and views of the Earth below them for about three minutes.
The flight will come less than two weeks after another billionaire founder of a space company, Richard Branson, flew to the edge of space with three crewmates. The Virgin Galactic space plane reached 55 miles above Earth then landed safely.
The ship rocket had undergone necessary safety checks and has “no issues,” Blue Origin officials said. New Shepard has flown successfully 15 times since 2015, but never with people onboard. Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith said Sunday the company hopes to reuse the New Shepherd rocket for a flight carrying paying passengers either in late September or early October.
The spacecraft is fully autonomous and has an escape system that is designed to jettison passengers away from the ship in case of emergency.
“We are not currently working on any open issues, and New Shepard is ready to fly,” said Steve Lanius, the flight director for the Tuesday voyage.
While rain and thunderstorms are predicted for the West Texas area where the rocket will launch, officials at the press conference Sunday said they expected the weather to be clear for the scheduled liftoff at 8 a.m. local time. They said they’d launch weather balloons Monday and again on Tuesday to ensure that conditions were ideal.
There will be no spectators permitted near the launch site Tuesday morning because the facility lacked the infrastructure to handle them, Cornell said. Instead, the best way to watch is through Blue Origin’s live stream of the launch, she said.
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