If you were wondering how much it would cost to hitch a ride into space alongside Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Blue Origin has the answer. Bidding for the first passenger seat on the inaugural crewed flight of New Shepard has closed, and it turns out there are some space enthusiasts with very deep pockets.
Bezos, of course, is just one of those people: after all, he set up Blue Origin himself, using some of the proceeds from Amazon. He announced earlier this month that he would be on the first New Shepard crew, along with his brother Mark Bezos.
At the time, the auction for the first passenger seat on the spacecraft was already underway. When Bezos shared his news, bidding was at an already-impressive $2.8 million. Today, the auction closed, and the winning bid is ten times that amount.
Bidding ended at $28 million, Blue Origin says, with bids received from nearly 7,600 registered people across 159 countries. The final proceeds will actually go to the Blue Origin foundation, “Club for the Future,” which aims to encourage young people to undertake careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).
What we don’t know, at least yet, is who the winning bidder actually is. Blue Origin says that will be released “in the weeks following the auction’s conclusion.”
The auction itself consisted of three stages. First, Blue Origin took sealed, online pre-bids, up until May 19. At that point, the scale of the individual bids was a secret; the company revealed the highest amount as the live, online pre-bidding began, and ran until June 10.
Finally, there was a live online auction which began on Thursday last week. That was scheduled to continue until there were no more competing bids. The winner can come from any country, but must be at least 18 years old – or the age of majority in their country, whichever is higher – and agree to not only informed consent and waivers of claim (should anything go wrong), but also a nondisclosure agreement about Blue Origin’s proprietary space tech, training, and other processes.
As for what you get for your $28 million ticket into space, think bragging rights and a quick trip out of the atmosphere. New Shepard is scheduled to launch and then accelerate until it reaches Mach 3+ around two minutes later. By the third minute, the crew capsule will separate from its booster rocket, and the first feeling of zero-G will begin.
At some point between that and the apogee – the point of highest altitude, expected to be reached at the four minute mark – New Shepard will pass the Kármán Line. That’s a 62 mile (330,000 feet) boundary above the planet’s mean sea level, and one of the accepted definitions of when you’re actually considered to be in space.
The crew will then begin to descend, with gravity returning from around six minutes post-launch. The parachutes deploy at the nine minute mark, slowing the capsule until it lands around ten minutes after takeoff. Blue Origin plans to launch New Shepard on July 20, 2021.