© 2024 KMUW
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
KMUW will carry President Joe Biden's address from the Oval Office beginning at 7 pm CT, Wednesday, July 24, 2024. Listen at 89.1 fm or through the online stream, or click here to watch.

Jeff Bezos' Space Trek Could Usher In New Era Of Space Tourism


Billionaire Jeff Bezos announced that he will be going to space. Bezos, who made his fortune starting Amazon, is also the owner of a commercial spaceflight company. NPR's Geoff Brumfiel reports that the trip will be short but significant. And we should note that Amazon is a financial supporter of NPR.

GEOFF BRUMFIEL, BYLINE: In an Instagram post with soaring music, Bezos said that flying into space was the culmination of a lifelong dream.


JEFF BEZOS: It's a thing I've wanted to do all my life. It's an adventure. It's a big deal for me.

BRUMFIEL: This flight will be what's called suborbital, meaning that Bezos will experience just a few minutes of weightlessness before falling back to Earth. Does that really count?

LAURA FORCZYK: Well, it depends on your definition of space.

BRUMFIEL: Laura Forczyk is the owner of Astralytical, a space consulting firm.

FORCZYK: People who go above 100 kilometers are generally seen by the international community as having gone to space, but some people consider one orbit necessary to go to space.

BRUMFIEL: Bezos will put a toe across the official 100 kilometer line aboard his spacecraft called New Shepard. It's a bell-like capsule with enormous windows that can seat six. Unlike other spaceships, New Shepard's 10-minute flight is fully automated. No pilot is required. Although it hasn't flown with people aboard just yet, its safety record so far is very good, says Forczyk. It experienced a problem on its very first flight.

FORCZYK: But ever since then, it has gone very smoothly.


ARIANE CORNELL: And touchdown.

PATRICK ZEITOUNI: That was beautiful.

CORNELL: Absolutely spectacular - a beautiful launch and landing for both the crew capsule and the booster.

BRUMFIEL: The latest test flight in Texas was the 15th successful mission. Forczyk says Bezos clearly thinks it's ready for humans.

FORCZYK: I think that it's a real vote of confidence that Jeff Bezos, one of the richest men in the world, and presumably his insurer have allowed him to be on this first flight.

BRUMFIEL: Bezos will also bring along his brother. Another seat is being sold to the highest bidder in an online auction. The flight scheduled for next month will be a big milestone for space tourism, which has been going on for decades in fits and starts. Later this year, SpaceX, a rival to Bezos' company, says it will take tourists all the way into orbit for a few days. But Forczyk says if you're thinking this is going to mean you get to go to space soon, well, don't get your hopes up.

FORCZYK: It's going to be some time before you and I can purchase a flight unless you or I, which I am not, is ultrawealthy.

BRUMFIEL: The ticket for that other seat next to Bezos is currently selling for well over $3 million, and there's still days left to go in the auction.

Geoff Brumfiel, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Geoff Brumfiel works as a senior editor and correspondent on NPR's science desk. His editing duties include science and space, while his reporting focuses on the intersection of science and national security.