Dr Joshua Colwell: 'Best day ever!' - Jeff Bezos blasts into space

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Jeff Bezos blasted into space Tuesday on his rocket company's first flight with people on board, becoming the second billionaire in just over a week to ride his own spacecraft.
The Amazon founder was accompanied by a hand-picked group: his brother, an 18-year-old from the Netherlands and an 82-year-old aviation pioneer from Texas — the youngest and oldest to ever fly in space.
"Best day ever!" Bezos said when the capsule touched down on the desert floor in remote West Texas after the 10-minute flight.
Named after America's first astronaut, Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket soared on the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, a date chosen by Bezos for its historical significance. He held fast to it, even as Virgin Galactic's Richard Branson pushed up his own flight from New Mexico in the race for space tourist dollars and beat him to space by nine days.
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. Photo / via AP
Unlike Branson's piloted rocket plane, Bezos' capsule was completely automated and required no official staff on board for the up-and-down flight.
Blue Origin reached an altitude of about 106 kilometres, more than 16km higher than Branson's July 11 ride. The 18m booster accelerated to Mach 3 or three times the speed of sound to get the capsule high enough, before separating and landing upright.
During their several minutes of weightlessness, video from inside the capsule showed the four floating, doing somersaults, tossing Skittles candies and throwing balls. Cheering, whooping and exclamations of "wow" could be heard. The capsule landed under parachutes, with Bezos and his guests briefly experiencing nearly six times the force of gravity, or 6 G's, on the way back.
Led by Bezos, they climbed out of the capsule after touchdown with wide grins, embracing parents, partners and children, then popped open bottles of sparkling wine, spraying one another.
Blue Origin's New Shepard crew Oliver Daemen, Mark Bezos, Jeff Bezos, and Wally Funk hold a press conference after flying into space. Photo / Getty
"My expectations were high and they were dramatically exceeded," Bezos said later.
Their flight lasted 10 minutes and 10 seconds — five minutes shy of Alan Shepard's Freedom 7 flight in 1961. Shepard's daughters, Laura and Julie, were introduced at a press conference a few hours later.
Sharing Bezos' dream-come-true adventure was Wally Funk, from the Dallas area, one of 13 female pilots who went through the same tests as Nasa's all-male astronaut corps in the early 1960s but never made it into space.
Members of the team celebrate with founder Jeff Bezos at the site of the New Shepard rocket booster landing in West Texas. Photo / AP
"I've been waiting a long time to finally get it up there," Funk said after the flight."I want to go again — fast," she added.
Joining them on the ultimate joyride was the company's first paying customer, Oliver Daemen, a last-minute fill-in for the mystery winner of a $28 million auction who opted for a later flight. The Dutch teen's father took part in the auction, and agreed on a lower undisclosed price last week when Blue Origin offered his son the vacated seat.
Blue Origin's New Shepard capsule parachutes safely down to the launch area after a brief trip to space Photo / AP
Among the items brought on the flight: A pair of aviator Amelia Earhart's goggles and a piece of fabric from the original Wright Flyer.
"I got goose bumps," said Angel Herrera of El Paso, who watched the launch from inside Van Horn High School, about 40km away. "The hair on the back of my neck stood up, just witnessing history."
Blue Origin — founded by Bezos in 2000 in Kent, Washington, near Amazon's Seattle headquarters — hasn't revealed its price for a ride to space. Two more passenger flights are planned by year's end, said Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith.
Touchdown! The crew capsule lands...

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