Jeff Bezos and three other passengers spent about 10 minutes on Tuesday morning making a round trip to space aboard the New Shepard, a rocket built by billionaire’s aerospace company Blue Origin. The New Shepard took off at around 9:12 a.m. from its launch site near Van Horn, Texas, and flew over just over the Kármán Line, a border 100 kilometers above the ground that many consider to mark the Earth from space. After spending a few minutes in zero gravity, the crew descended to earth in the New Shepard capsule.
The flight was Blue Origin’s first with people on board. In its advertisement for the mission, the company said it wants to send more people to space and will start selling tickets soon, although details on the price and the buying process are scarce. Other private space companies like Virgin Galactic and SpaceX are also planning to sell seats on their ships. Since 2001, when businessman Dennis Tito became the first person to pay for space travel, the space tourism industry has seen its ups and downs as companies struggled to find ways to make it commercially viable. So far, only a handful of people have been able to make it into space. (Even NSYNC frontman Lance Bass couldn’t raise the $ 20 million he needed to fly with a Russian space crew in 2002.) Now the richest people in the world seem determined to take space flight. private regulars a reality. Does this really herald a new era for more widely available travel to space?
At least for the foreseeable future, civilians aspiring to visit the cosmos will need to be well connected or have hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars. Only one seat was for sale on the New Shepard for Tuesday’s flight. An anonymous bidder won it at an auction in June for $ 28 million, although they were unable to attend due to a scheduling conflict and will join a future flight instead. The seat ultimately went to Oliver Daemen, an 18-year-old Dutchman who became the youngest person to ever visit space. His father, the CEO of a private equity firm, also made an offer on the seat and was finally able to buy it when the winner gave up. However, Blue Origin has not disclosed how much Elder Daemen paid. The other two passengers were the brother of Jeff Bezos, Mark and Wally Funk, a renowned aviator who trained as an astronaut in the 1960s before the US government canned its “women in space” program.
Besides the $ 28 million figure, Blue Origin has been fairly low-key about its pricing, although it said on Tuesday that ticket sales are now open to the general public and asked interested customers to send an email. at [email protected] Blue Origin did not respond to a survey of ticket prices, although Reuters reported that the company initially estimated in 2018 that they would cost between $ 200,000 and $ 300,000. Bezos also told a press conference after his flight that “the demand is very, very high” for the seats and that Blue Origin has already reached $ 100 million in private sales, which means the company will have to plan. more trips and build more rockets. Two more flights carrying civilians are planned this year.
Flights via other space tourism services will also cost you at least a few hundred thousand dollars. Virgin Galactic initially offered ticket reservations for $ 250,000 and managed to sell around 600 before stopping in 2014 due to a crash test. After its first space flight carrying human passengers last week (including founder Richard Branson), the company is expected to reopen the sale of higher-priced tickets soon for when it begins to regularly fly people in 2022. ( Right now, people can deposit $ 1,000 to reserve a ticket.) Analysts estimate that they will ultimately cost between $ 300,000 and $ 400,000. During a presentation to investors in 2019, however, Virgin Galactic executives reported that after this initial hike, their long-term goal was to dramatically lower prices to make the service accessible to a wider range of people, that is, they hope they can do business with the rich rather than the ultra-rich. Discussing the size of the ticket market, they figured that 1.78 million people had a net worth of over $ 10 million and could hypothetically afford a $ 100,000 bill, while 5.07 million people have a net worth of over $ 5 million and might be willing to pay $ 50,000 for a ticket.
However, Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin only offer suborbital flights. If you want to spend more than a few minutes in space, you’ll probably have to shell out tens of millions of dollars. Space tourism company Axiom is flowing three people early next year to the International Space Station in SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule and will stay there for eight nights; seats cost $ 55 million per person. This includes the cost of living of $ 35,000 per night at the space station to cover the cost of life support systems and electricity. While that rate might get you a suite with a basketball court or bowling alley in Las Vegas, the Axiom crew would spend their nights in sleeping bags.
Future Tense is a partnership between Slate, New America, and Arizona State University that examines emerging technologies, public policy, and society.