The space bug caught Bezos’ attention when he saw Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin land on the moon at the age of five in July 1969. (Twitter / @ blueorigin)

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos will be aboard the Blue Origin when it launches into space from West Texas today. The flight will have no engineers or test pilots on board, and Bezos will have his brother, an 82-year-old aviator and a teenager for company.

Established in 2000, Bezos said it has funded the company by selling Amazon shares worth $ 1 billion each year. The space bug caught Bezos’ attention when he saw Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin land on the moon at the age of five in July 1969 and chose the anniversary of that moon landing for his own launch . The history of space has always appealed to Bezos, who named after Alan Shepard, the first American in space, his New Shepard rocket. The rocket under development New Glenn was named after John Glenn, the first American to enter orbit. Bezos, who recently stepped down as CEO of Amazon, donated $ 200 million to the Smithsonian Institution so that it could renovate the National Air and Space Museum and launch an education center.

Bezos said seeing Earth from space changes one. It changes their relationship with the planet and humanity, adding that he had wanted this all his life.

Joining Bezos on board at his personal invitation will be his brother Mark, 50, an investor and volunteer firefighter. Bezos also invited Wally Funk, a pioneer of women in aviation. At 82, Funk will be the oldest person in space. She was a member of Mercury 13, a group of 13 female pilots who performed similar tests for NASA’s Mercury 7 in the 1960s. They were prohibited from flying because of their gender. Eighteen-year-old Oliver Daemon will become the youngest in space. Daemon’s father had made an offer for a seat on the capsule in June, but had to give up after the prices soared. Daemon’s seat was confirmed after the winner of the $ 28 million charity auction for a seat on the capsule had to give up due to a scheduling conflict. The teenager will be Blue Origin’s first paying customer.

The New Shepard rocket will head into space at Mach 3, three times the speed of sound. It will then separate from the capsule and return for a standing landing. Passengers will be weightless for three to four minutes, after which their capsule will parachute into the desert.

Bezos spared no effort to ensure that the launch went smoothly, with Blue Origin having completed 15 test flights since 2015. All of the demonstration flights in space were successful, except the first, which was saw the booster crashing. One of the rockets flew seven times and the other five. Blue Origin also halted a few flights after takeoff just to test its emergency evacuation system.

The first flight is likely to lead to the opening of ticket sales by the company. While it’s unclear how much a seat will cost, the $ 28 million he landed at the charity auction may be a benchmark. Nineteen space advocacy and education groups will receive $ 1 million each, while Blue Origin’s Club for the Future will use the rest for its education efforts.

Bezos also has bigger plans for Blue Moon. While the New Shepard rocket will only take people to the edge of space on brief flights, the New Glenn rocket will be able to carry cargo and crew into orbit. Blue Origin has also targeted the moon. While Blue Moon, the company’s proposed lunar lander, has lost business competition from NASA to develop technology to bring astronauts to the moon to SpaceX’s spacecraft, Blue Moon is challenging the award of the contract. .

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