The launch is scheduled at 3 pm (Italian time) on Tuesday 20 July from the Texas desert
The rocket is called New Shepard, named after the first American astronaut who, sixty years ago, challenged space 23 days after the first ever Russian Gagarin. The crew of the capsule surrounded by the largest windows ever used on a spacecraft? Surely “original”, playing on the name of “Blue Origin”, the private company that Jeff Bezos was able to build to fulfill the dream of tourists in space, and of private flights above the atmospheric blanket, above the “Karman Limit. ”, That is, the 100 kilometers that allow men and women to become astronauts. The launch is scheduled for tomorrow at 9am (local time, 3pm Italian time, depending on weather conditions). On the capsule, on top of the 50-meter high rocket, there are 4 “non-astronauts”.
Calling it a space mission is an exaggeration: more correct, never as in this case, to define it as “flight” in space. Completely different techniques compared to Richard Branson’s space glide on Sunday 11 July, but still a hit and run, albeit one of prestige, with its records and associated and connected risks. A fast ascent to space up to 100 kilometers, then the detachment of the capsule from the rocket, which will attempt to descend to the ground to be recovered, and the landing of the capsule with parachute and on board its 4 occupants.
Not bad, for a baptismal flight of the New Shepard rocket, named after the legendary and unforgettable Alan Shepard. That all in all, in 1961, he made a similar flight but with very different stresses at the start and locked up in a capsule tight on a seat and, other than windows to look at the view! Zero visibility and the Earth seen from above with a periscope and a small metal washer that flies in front of the helmet: it was weightless… Even the crew is difficult to call it. Led by the Bezos brothers, the other two are really special and are really “space tourists” An 82-year-old lady, Kelly Funk, who was part of the group of the first 13 female astronauts that the US chose for the first space flights. But that they will never fly by political choice back then: the first American in orbit will arrive only in 1983. And then, here is the mysterious winner willing to pay 28 million dollars to float 4 minutes in weightlessness in the company of the Bezos brothers, remained anonymous for weeks. The space tourist who will complete the crew is an 18-year-old: Oliver Daemen, Dutch, who actually ranked second at the millionaire auction. The winner, who remains anonymous, “chose to fly on a future mission on the New Shepard due to an overlap of commitments” – reads the Blue Origin announcement. And so seat number 4 passed to young Oliver, fresh out of high school, who, before starting to study physics at Utrecht University, spent a year getting his private driver’s license. Last month his father (JoesDaeman, CEO and founder of Somerset Capital Partners) had bid just under $ 28 million that closed the auction. The Dutch boy will be the youngest space traveler in history. And in the same flight there will be the one who will become the oldest person to reach space: with 82 years and 19,600 flight hours behind her, Kelly Funk had always dreamed of becoming an astronaut. It had come very close, brilliantly passing all the tests of the 1961 Mercury 13 program, designed to prove that women could undergo the same training as men. . Kelly Funk, who was the youngest at the time of the Mercury 13, will now be able to take revenge thanks to Jeff Bezos, who invited her on board as a guest of honor at the beginning of July. Tomorrow, July 20, Blue Origin will activate the live broadcast on its website starting at 1.30pm Italian time, with the launch scheduled at around 3pm. The ‘Blue Origin Experience’ that the 4 space travelers will experience includes a 6-minute round trip trip and 4 minutes spent floating in the capsule’s spacious cockpit. Bezos’ voyage will therefore be shorter than Branson’s, which set off on 11 July with the first crew of suborbital tourists aboard his VssUnity. On the other hand, Bezos will reach higher: if in fact the Virgin Galactic vehicle reaches a little more than 80 kilometers in height, a border already considered ‘space’ by the United States but on which not everyone agrees, the Blue Origin shuttle exceeds 100 kilometres. It is the suborbital space flight (ie with the capsule that does not enter into orbit to make a complete revolution around the Earth, which lasts no less than 90 minutes) number 24 in history. Where there are, among others, the first flights over 90 kilometers of the X-15 rockets, in the early 1960s, the missions of Shepard and Grissom, a Soyuz flight that went wrong in 1975, and the most recent flights of Virgin’s space planes. But this has an ancient flavor, of pioneering, with a traditional albeit innovative rocket that burns liquid propellant. But that officially opens the completely new era of tourism among the stars. Waiting for future tourist trips to orbit and, even further, to the Moon. Bezos and Elon Musk until ready …