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Blue Origin Launch Recap: Jeff Bezos and Crew Successfully Complete Historic Space Launch

Blue Origin | via Reuters

Blue Origin's first passenger spaceflight on Tuesday was a success, with the company's rocket carrying founder Jeff Bezos, his brother Mark Bezos, aerospace pioneer Wally Funk, and Dutch teenager Oliver Daemen.

Bezos awards $100 million 'Courage & Civility' awards

Blue Origin

Jeff Bezos announced a new philanthropic venture at the press conference following the Blue Origin spaceflight.

The Courage & Civility Award is a $100 million grant that the recipient can give to the charities or nonprofits of their choice.

The award "recognizes leaders who aim high and who pursue solutions with courage and always do so with civility," according to Bezos.

Bezos gave the first award to Van Jones, news commentator and founder of Dream Corps, and the second award to award-winning chef José Andrés.

Van Jones awarded the first Courage and Civility Award by Jeff Bezos.
Blue Origin
Van Jones awarded the first Courage and Civility Award by Jeff Bezos.

Hannah Miao

Bezos says Blue Origin mission is "not about escaping Earth"

Jeff Bezos announces new philanthropic work at the Blue Origin Launch event on July 20th, 2021.
Source: Blue Origin
Jeff Bezos announces new philanthropic work at the Blue Origin Launch event on July 20th, 2021.

Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos said the company's mission of building a road to space is not about fleeing the planet.

"This is not about escaping Earth," Bezos said. "This is the only good planet in the solar system... We have to take care of it."

The founder in an interview with CNBC's Morgan Brennan said he envisions a future in which humans move "polluting industry" to space.

Hannah Miao

Blue Origin says it's approaching $100 million in astronaut sales

Blue Origin signage is displayed on a screen before the launch of billionaire American businessman Jeff Bezos and his three crewmates on Blue Origin's inaugural flight to the edge of space, in Times Square in New York City, U.S., July 20, 2021.
Jeenah Moon | Reuters
Blue Origin signage is displayed on a screen before the launch of billionaire American businessman Jeff Bezos and his three crewmates on Blue Origin's inaugural flight to the edge of space, in Times Square in New York City, U.S., July 20, 2021.

Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos said at a press conference that the company is approaching $100 million in private sales.

"The demand is very, very high," he said.

Bezos also said that the company plans to fly two more human missions this year.

Hannah Miao

Wally Funk, oldest person in space, said Blue Origin flight was a long time coming

Wally Funk becomes the oldest person to reach space on Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin,on July 20th, 2021.
Blue Origin
Wally Funk becomes the oldest person to reach space on Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin,on July 20th, 2021.

Aviation legend Wally Funk became the oldest person in space after New Shepard's successful flight at 82 years old.

"I've been waiting a long time to finally get up there," Funk said. "I loved it...and the four of us, we had a great time."

"It was wonderful. I want to go again — fast!" Funk added.

Hannah Miao

Spaceflight carried Amelia Earhart's goggles and piece of Wright Flyer

Mark Bezos says that the Blue Origin crew flew with them to space a piece of canvas from the Wright Flyer, as well Amelia Earhart's goggles.

Bezos thanks Amazon workers and customers

Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos thanked the workers and consumers of another company he founded: Amazon.

"For every Amazon customer out there and every Amazon employee, thank you from the bottom of my heart very much. It's very appreciated," Bezos said.

Bezos has sold billions of dollars in Amazon stock to invest in Blue Origin.

Hannah Miao

Jeff Bezos tells CNBC that spaceflight was 'tiny little step' in building 'a road to space'

Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos spoke to CNBC's Morgan Brennan after he returned from space, saying the spaceflight represented one step toward the company's mission of expanding to a point where people live and work in space.

"This is a tiny little step of what Blue Origin is going to do. What we're really trying to do is build reusable space vehicles. It's the only way to build a road to space, and we need to build a road to space so that our children can build the future," Bezos said. "If you want to be a space entrepreneur today, you have to do everything from the beginning. There's no real infrastructure that's at an affordable cost. So that's what we have to do, is build that kind of infrastructure and then future generations will get to rest on top of it."

— Michael Sheetz and Hannah Miao

The spaceflight's stats

Blue Origin shared stats from the mission shortly after the capsule returned.

The crew capsule reached a maximum altitude of 351,210 feet (or 107 kilometers), with the rocket reaching a top speed of 2,233 mph during the launch. The total mission time from launch to capsule landing was 10 minutes 10 seconds.

— Michael Sheetz

Virgin Galactic's Branson congratulates Blue Origin and Bezos

Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson congratulated Blue Origin, founder Jeff Bezos and the New Shepard crew after the successful spaceflight.

"Well done," Branson tweeted. "Impressive! Very best to all the crew from me and all the team at @virgingalactic"

Branson beat Bezos to space by nine days after flying on Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity spacecraft earlier in July.

Hannah Miao

Press conference planned for 11 a.m. ET

Blue Origin will be holding a press conference with the astronauts, scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. ET.

— Michael Sheetz

New Shepard architect reflects on Blue Origin beginnings

Blue Origin's director of astronaut and orbital sales Ariane Cornell spoke with New Shepard architect Gary Lai after the successful spaceflight.

"When you sat there 17 years ago with the very small team at the time at Blue, is this what you had imagined?" Cornell asked.

"It's certainly what we hoped for," Lai said. "When I joined Blue Origin, there were only 20 of us in a warehouse. It would have taken a huge leap of faith to think that we could have gotten to this point, but we have."

Blue Origin now has more than 3,500 employees, according to the company.

Hannah Miao

The crew emerges from the capsule safely

The four crewmembers, now astronauts, emerged from the capsule a few minutes after landing.

— Michael Sheetz

Jeff Bezos: 'Best day ever'

This photo provided by Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and space tourism company Blue Origin, exits the Blue Origin's New Shepard capsule after it parachuted safely down to the launch area with passengers Mark Bezos, Oliver Daemen and Wally Funk, near Van Horn, Texas, Tuesday, July 20, 2021.
Blue Origin | AP
This photo provided by Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and space tourism company Blue Origin, exits the Blue Origin's New Shepard capsule after it parachuted safely down to the launch area with passengers Mark Bezos, Oliver Daemen and Wally Funk, near Van Horn, Texas, Tuesday, July 20, 2021.

After touchdown, Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos reflected on realizing his long-awaited dream of flying in space.

"Best day ever!" he said.

Hannah Miao

New Shepard capsule lands with crew inside

Under a set of parachutes, the Blue Origin spacecraft returned to land, firing its thrusters briefly to cushion its touchdown for the four passengers inside. The company's recovery crew is headed out to the landing site in the Texas desert, where they will open the capsule's hatch from the outside.

The rocket’s booster lands

The New Shepard rocket booster returned to Earth, firing its engine to slow down its descent and then slowly landing on four legs. Blue Origin will reuse the booster on future launches.

Jeff Bezos is in space

This photo provided by Blue Origin, Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket lifts off Tuesday, July 20, 2021. The rocket is carrying passengers Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and space tourism company Blue Origin, his brother Mark Bezos, Oliver Daemen and Wally Funk.
Blue Origin | AP
This photo provided by Blue Origin, Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket lifts off Tuesday, July 20, 2021. The rocket is carrying passengers Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and space tourism company Blue Origin, his brother Mark Bezos, Oliver Daemen and Wally Funk.

Blue Origin's New Shepard capsule is now officially in space, carrying Jeff Bezos, Mark Bezos, Wally Funk and Oliver Daemen. Read all about the milestone here.

New Shepard launches

Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket booster fired its engine, accelerated away from the launch pad and into the Texas sky. If all goes according to plan, the crew should be in space within a few minutes.

10 minutes to liftoff

The countdown clock ticks below 10 minutes to go until liftoff.

— Michael Sheetz

Countdown clock resumes

The Blue Origin countdown clock has resumed, with now less than 13 minutes go.

Countdown clock holding at 15 minutes

The Blue Origin countdown clock is holding for a currently unknown reason. The delay may be a weather or technical issue that the company is investigating.

— Michael Sheetz

Capsule hatch is closed

Blue Origin's operations team has closed the hatch to New Shepard's capsule, with the crew now locked inside. The capsule's emergency system will arm shortly, in case the capsule needs to fire its escape motor and jettison away from the rocket.

— Michael Sheetz

Bezos: 'To a soft landing'

With less than 30 minutes to launch, Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos posted a video to his Instagram in tribute to his brother, Mark, who is one of two other passengers joining Bezos on the company's first passenger spaceflight.

In the video, Bezos shares some words of encouragement as the brothers clink their glasses of frozen Tang together in a toast.

"The Russian cosmonauts have a special toast for occasions like this before a flight," Bezos says. "To a soft landing."

— Annie Palmer

The stakes

Spaceflight is inherently risky given the explosive nature of the rocket's fuel, the high speed needed to reach space, the hostile environment of space itself, and the force with which gravity returns the capsule to Earth.

The New Shepard capsule's seats have a single-release five-point harness. For additional safety in the event of an emergency, it also has escape motor that can fire at any point just before or during the launch, to quickly jettison the crew away from the rocket.

Blue Origin has launched and landed New Shepard safely on 15 prior test flights before putting people on board.

— Michael Sheetz

The crew boards the capsule

The crew walks out to the capsule

Blue Origin

Soon-to-be astronauts climb the launch tower and prepare to board capsule

Blue Origin

The Blue Origin crew arrived at the launch facility and climbed the launch tower, nearing the moment when they'll enter the New Shepard capsule.

— Michael Sheetz

Blue Origin crew leaves the training center

Blue Origin

The four members for Tuesday's inaugural Blue Origin crew have left the company's training and pre-launch preparation facility, suited up in their flight suits and now headed to the launch pad. The group boarded a Rivian electric truck and began the drive out to the rocket.

— Michael Sheetz

Who is Wally Funk?

Future space tourists led by Wally Funk (R), who have paid their deposits on the $200,000.00 fare, celebrate before the Virgin Galactic VSS Enterprise spacecraft makes it's first public landing during the Spaceport America runway dedication ceremony near Las Cruces, New Mexico on October 22, 2010.
Mark Ralston | AFP | Getty Images
Future space tourists led by Wally Funk (R), who have paid their deposits on the $200,000.00 fare, celebrate before the Virgin Galactic VSS Enterprise spacecraft makes it's first public landing during the Spaceport America runway dedication ceremony near Las Cruces, New Mexico on October 22, 2010.

Wally Funk is a female aviation pioneer, and at 82, will become the oldest person to fly in space. She has dreamed about flying to space longer than any of the other passengers have been alive — having been one of the so-called Mercury 13, a group of women who passed the same tests as NASA's Mercury astronauts, but never got a chance to fly to space.

Her aviation career is legendary — the first female civilian flight instructor at the Army's Fort Sill, first female Federal Aviation Administration flight inspector, first female National Transportation Safety Board air safety investigator — and has logged more than 19,000 flight hours along the way.

In 1998, 77-year-old Sen. John Glenn became the oldest person to fly in space. Thirty-six years before his flight on the space shuttle Discovery, the Mercury astronaut became the first American to orbit Earth.

— Michael Sheetz

Goals of the spaceflight

Billionaire Jeff Bezos, founder of ecommerce company Amazon.com Inc, his brother Mark Bezos, a private equity executive, pioneering female aviator Wally Funk and recent Dutch high school graduate Oliver Daemen pose in an undated photograph, ahead of their scheduled flight aboard Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket near Van Horn, Texas, U.S.
Blue Origin | Reuters
Billionaire Jeff Bezos, founder of ecommerce company Amazon.com Inc, his brother Mark Bezos, a private equity executive, pioneering female aviator Wally Funk and recent Dutch high school graduate Oliver Daemen pose in an undated photograph, ahead of their scheduled flight aboard Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket near Van Horn, Texas, U.S.

Blue Origin's spaceflight has multiple goals, with the first being to safely transport a crew to and from space.

Since these are the first people on board New Shepard for a launch, the crew will be vital to the company's understanding of whether its astronaut training prepares the passengers appropriately for a launch. Blue Origin will also be looking for feedback from the crew on the experience inside the capsule, especially while they float around in microgravity.

— Michael Sheetz

Would you send your kids to space?

In the Blue Origin livestream, director of astronaut and orbital sales Ariane Cornell had a key question for Gary Lai, senior director of the New Shepard design crew.

"Would you put your kids on board?" Cornell asked.

"We set out to design the vehicle for anybody, not professional astronauts, anybody with little training. That is a very hard problem," Lai said. "Yes, we have succeeded and I would put my own kids on that vehicle."

"One day, summer vacation in space," Cornell said with a laugh.

Hannah Miao

Oldest and youngest in space

Wally Funk
Blue Origin
Wally Funk

Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket is set to carry the oldest and youngest person in space. The rocket's passengers include aerospace pioneer Wally Funk, 82, and teenage physics student Oliver Daeman.

Daeman is known as New Shepard's "first paying customer."  The 18-year-old is the son of Dutch private equity firm Somerset Capital Partners CEO Joes Daemen, who paid for the seat in last month's public auction and chose to fly Oliver instead.

The student takes the place of the still-anonymous $28 million winning bidder of the auction, who cited "scheduling conflicts" for postponing their flight.

In 1998, 77-year-old Sen. John Glenn became the oldest person to fly in space. Thirty-six years before his flight on the space shuttle Discovery, he became the first American to orbit Earth.

In 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Gherman Stepanovich Titov became the youngest person to fly in space. The launch was a month before his 26th birthday.

Hannah Miao

The rocket and capsule

The New Shepard booster on the landing pad after NS-15's successful mission on April 14, 2021.
Blue Origin
The New Shepard booster on the landing pad after NS-15's successful mission on April 14, 2021.

Blue Origin's spaceflight system New Shepard, named in honor of NASA astronaut Alan Shepard, stands 60 feet tall and has two major pieces: the rocket booster and the capsule.

The booster is powered by a single liquid-fueled BE-3 engine, generating 110,000 pound feet of thrust at sea level and able to throttle down to less than 20% power for its slow, soft landings. After launching, the booster will disconnect from the capsule and then guide itself back in to attempt to land on a concrete pad near where it launched, firing its engine to slow down and extending a set of four legs to touch down.

The interior of the latest New Shepard capsule
Blue Origin
The interior of the latest New Shepard capsule

The capsule is designed to carry up to six passengers. Fully autonomous, there is no human pilot on board during the launches. It is pressurized, with a climate control system, and has the largest windows that have flown in space to date.

Jeff Bezos opens the hatch of a New Shepard capsule after an uncrewed test flight on April 14, 2021.
Blue Origin
Jeff Bezos opens the hatch of a New Shepard capsule after an uncrewed test flight on April 14, 2021.

— Michael Sheetz

Bezos prepares to launch

Livestream begins

Blue Origin's livestream begins, with the launch expected in under 90 minutes.

— Michael Sheetz

How Bezos sold Amazon shares to fund Blue Origin

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has poured billions into funding Blue Origin. In 2017, Bezos said he would sell $1 billion in Amazon stock annually to invest in the venture.

— Annie Palmer

The New Shepard rocket and capsule is rolled out to the launch pad

Blue Origin

Blue Origin rolled out the New Shepard rocket booster and capsule earlier Tuesday, with the spacecraft now standing on the launch pad.

— Michael Sheetz

The Karman Line debate

Virgin Galactic's Sir Richard Branson (L) and Blue Origin's founder Jeff Bezos.
Getty Images
Virgin Galactic's Sir Richard Branson (L) and Blue Origin's founder Jeff Bezos.

The boundary of space is a perhaps surprisingly controversial topic, made even more so by comments of Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin leadership in recent weeks.

While Virgin Galactic flies above 80 kilometers (or about 262,000 feet), which is the altitude the U.S. recognizes as the boundary of space, while Bezos' Blue Origin flies above 100 kilometers (or about 328,000 feet), which is commonly known as the Karman Line.

After Branson said he planned to launch just nine days before Bezos' previously announced spaceflight, Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith decried Virgin Galactic's approach as "a very different experience" because "they're not flying above the Karman line."

Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier responded: "We are going above the astronaut line," adding that it is "the only commercial company that's flown private astronauts" to date.

Astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell broke down the reasons why there is no "real international agreement" on the boundary of space. Read more here.

— Michael Sheetz

Differences between Bezos' and Branson’s rides

Bezos' Blue Origin and Branson's Virgin Galactic have been developing rocket-powered spacecraft, but that is where the similarities end.

While Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket launches vertically from the ground, Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo system is released in the air and returns to Earth in a glide for a runway landing, like an aircraft.

And while New Shepard launches autonomously, the Virgin Galactic system is flown by two pilots. 

— Michael Sheetz

Branson won billionaire space race by nine days

Richard Branson launched to the edge of space on Virgin Galactic's fourth spaceflight on July 11, just nine days before Tuesday's Blue Origin's planned launch with Bezos. While Branson has denied that Virgin Galactic rearranged its spaceflight schedule to beat Bezos, Branson was the first billionaire to fly in space.

— Michael Sheetz

CNBC is live at Blue Origin's facility in the desert: Here is what you should know

Here's who's flying

From left: Oliver Daemen, Wally Funk, Jeff Bezos, Mark Bezos.
via @jeffbezos on Instagram
From left: Oliver Daemen, Wally Funk, Jeff Bezos, Mark Bezos.

The crew for Tuesday's flight is Jeff Bezos, who founded Blue Origin and retail giant Amazon, his brother, Mark, aerospace pioneer Wally Funk and Dutch teenager Oliver Daeman.

— Annie Palmer

An Apollo anniversary

The Apollo 11 Lunar Module ascent stage, with astronauts Neil A. Armstrong and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. aboard, is photographed from the Command and Service Modules in lunar orbit in this July, 1969 file handout photo.
Source: NASA | Reuters
The Apollo 11 Lunar Module ascent stage, with astronauts Neil A. Armstrong and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. aboard, is photographed from the Command and Service Modules in lunar orbit in this July, 1969 file handout photo.

Blue Origin is launching its first crew on an already historic date in human spaceflight, July 20. It's the 52nd anniversary of Apollo 11's landing on the moon.

— Michael Sheetz

Bezos kicks off post-CEO life with trip to space

Jeff Bezos is launching into space just two weeks after he stepped down as CEO of Amazon, turning the helm over to Andy Jassy, who ran the company's cloud-computing unit. Bezos announced in February that he would transition into the role of executive chairman, giving him more time to spend on personal pursuits like Blue Origin and philanthropy.

— Annie Palmer

Schedule for the launch

Here's the plan for the 11-minute flight (all times in EDT):

  • 7:30 a.m.: Company webcast begins
  • 8:15 a.m.: The crew leaves Blue Origin's astronaut training center to head to the New Shepard launch pad.
  • 8:30 a.m.: Crew climbs the tower. When they get the "go" from mission control, they will board the crew capsule.
  • 8:36 a.m.: Hatch closing
  • 9 a.m.: The New Shepard rocket launches
  • 9:08 a.m.: The rocket booster lands
  • 9:11 a.m.: The crew capsule lands
  • 9:22 a.m.: Hatch opening

— Michael Sheetz

Blue Origin's first crewed spaceflight

Blue Origin, the space company founded by Amazon executive chairman Jeff Bezos in 2000, has been testing prototypes of its New Shepard rocket and capsule for more than a decade. On Tuesday, the company is set to put the spacecraft to the ultimate test: its first human spaceflight headlined by Bezos.

— Michael Sheetz

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