In 1961, humans began realizing what once looked like an unattainable ambition of conquering space when Yuri Gagarin made the first journey outside Earth. Boarding the Vostok 1 capsule, the Russian cosmonaut completed one orbit of Earth, an adventure that lasted 108 minutes. More individuals followed, such as Valentina Tereshkova in 1963, Edwin Aldrich, Michael Collins, and Neil Armstrong in 1969, who landed on the Moon and which is still considered the biggest feat in the aerospace arena.
While scientists are the ones sent to space and work in the International Space Station, it’s inevitable for ordinary, private citizens to dream of reaching the cosmos. In 2011, it became a reality after American engineer and entrepreneur Denis Tito funded his own trip to outer space and became history’s first space tourist.
Today, going to space has become more common with multimillionaires establishing their own space companies. One of which is Amazon owner Jeff Bezos, who founded Blue Origin which brought tourists on their own voyages in space. Here, let’s discover more about the space tourism opportunities the company offers, making the future of space tourism even more exciting.
All About Blue Origin
Blue Origin was founded on September 8, 2020, in Kent, Washington, USA. It’s a private aerospace company, which aims to make space travel cheaper, as well as more reliable by utilizing reusable launch vehicles. Its name was derived from Earth as a blue planet and the point of origin of spaceflights. Today, Blue Origin has emerged as one of the leading players in the budding space tourism industry.
Blue Origin’s Space Tourism Opportunities
Blue Origin mainly offers sub-orbital space tourism, though it’s looking to expand into orbital space. Sub-orbital space tourism entails taking passengers at the beginning of outer space at an altitude of 100 kilometers (62 miles). Their main competitor in this type of leisure pursuit in the cosmos is Virgin Galactic, founded by British entrepreneur and billionaire Richard Branson in 2004.
Blue Origin’s debuted in the space tourism realm via its maiden crewed flight on July 20, 2021, boarding its reusable launch vehicle New Shepard, named after NASA astronaut Alan Shepard, who was the first American to go to space. It flew off the company’s Launch Site One situated north of Van Horn town in the West Texas region. The date coincides with falls on the 52nd anniversary of the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing.
On board were four passengers including Jeff Bezos himself, his brother Mark Bezos, aviation pioneer Wally Funk, and Oliver Daemen, a student from the Netherlands. Blue Origin sent two other missions in the same year.
One on October 13, 2021, with Star Trek icon William Shatner, microbiologist Glen de Vries, Planet co-founder Chris Boshuizen, and Blue Origin VP Audrey Powers. Another on December 11, 2021, with former NFL star and “Good Morning America” host Michael Strahan, Alan Shepard’s eldest daughter Laura Shepard Churchley, plus four paying passengers: Cameron Bess, Lane Bess, Dylan Taylor, and Evan Dick.
On March 31, 2022, Blue Origin made its fourth human spaceflight with no celebrities aboard. The passenger manifest included Marc Hagle, Sharon Hagle, Marty Allen, Gary Lai, Jim Kitchen, and Dr. George Nield. On June 4, 2022, New Shepard flew anew with six passengers on board, sending a total of 25 non-professionals on all of its sub-orbital launches to the edge of space.
Typical New Shepard spaceflights into the suborbital space last about 11 minutes, with a quarter of it allowing passengers to experience weightlessness or zero-gravity. Its system is fully autonomous, which means no pilots fly along with the passengers boarding the spacious, pressurized, crew capsule.
Despite this, passengers still undergo about 14 hours of training, focusing on basic flight procedures and emergency instructions. In comparison, astronauts from NASA have to complete 4.5 years of training for a six-month spaceflight, with two and a half years dedicated to basic training, while the remaining two years are allotted for mission training.
Though flights on suborbital spaceflights are much shorter than space station missions conducted by NASA, it’s good to note that any spaceflight, regardless of duration, entails various potential risks like cabin depressurization, fire, and sustaining G-loads (gravitational force). As such, training is vital for a New Shepard crew member.
Meanwhile, in its marketing campaigns, New Shepard spaceflights are being touted by the company to give passengers an unforgettable experience, highlighting the environmentally-controlled crew capsule that provides utmost comfort and the individual sets with big, beautiful windows for the astronauts’ sweeping views of the Earth.
During the launch, passengers don’t wear spacesuits, as we commonly see worn by astronauts to keep them safe in the harsh environment in outer space. Instead, they use jumpsuits provided by Blue Origin, with Blue Origin stating the apparel allowed better movement during the short period of weightlessness experienced by passengers during the flight. Upon returning to Earth, ring and wedge fins, plus a parachute help the rocket achieve aerodynamic stabilization. Thus, ensuring a soft landing.
Booking a New Shepard spaceflight is available on Blue Origin’s website. Information required includes contact details, show introduction about yourself, a list of notable adventures you previously had, what features most excite you, and the date you’re interested in flying and experiencing the life-changing spaceflight.
However, the company doesn’t provide or release public statements about its pricing details and flight schedules. Moreover, its facilities are also closed to the public, though paying customers received a short tour of the spacecraft and its support facilities.
Commercial spaceflights no longer sound futuristic with many companies like Blue Origin now capable of offering exciting space tourism opportunities. Yet, all these are just the beginning as these aerospace businesses continue to outline plans and promise other types of leisure travel into space for the wealthiest cosmos enthusiast.
Since the outset of these companies, they have delivered, and brought in new innovations, while continuing to surprise the world with incredible achievements in the aerospace realm. What’s certain is that there’s a lot the future has in store and there are more things humans will achieve outside Earth.