Billionaire Jeff Bezos’ rocket company Blue Origins said Wednesday it would ferry passengers on a sight seeing trip aboard its New Shepherd spacecraft to suborbital space on July 20.
The company noted that five of the six seats, available for passengers on the spacecraft, will be filled by astronauts, whose names would be revealed at a later time.
It said the remaining seat would be auctioned off on BlueOrigin.com in the coming weeks, making it the first commercial flight to reach the edge of space.
According to the company, the auction allows people to bid any amount on the website, and is slated to take place in three phases with the first scheduled from 5 May to 19 May.
It said the bids will be unsealed and a live auction slated to take place on 12 June when a winner will be determined, adding that the raised money would go to its foundation that promotes STEM education.
The New Shepard spacecraft can autonomously carry six passengers in its capsule to an imaginary line above the planet at about 100km altitude called the ‘Karman line’ that separates earth from space for enough time so that the crew briefly experiences weightlessness and gets to view the Earth’s curvature.
Once near the line, the rocket detatches and lands itself while the passengers get about 10 minutes to experience space through the large windows on the capsule before it safely descends to Earth under parachutes.
“The view will be spectacular,” Ariane Cornell, Blue Origin’s Director of Astronaut Sales, reportedly told a media briefing.
The rocket and the capsule combo have reportedly completed 15 test flights over the last few years and are fully reusable.
By successfully completing its New Shepard mission — named after Alan Shepard, the first American in space — Blue Origin hopes it will bring in a new era of civilian space travel.
According to Manny Shar, head of analytics at the space-focused consultancy BryceTech, there’s a keen interest among “high net-worth individuals,” for civilian space flight, and Blue Origin’s approach for them to experience space travel with only a day’s basic training is “an appealing prospect,” Financial Times reported.