Jeff Bezos’ first move after formally stepping down as CEO of Amazon? A trip to space.
The founder of the retailing giant confirmed Monday he and his brother, Mark, will ride on the first human flight of New Shepard, a suborbital rocket system developed by his aerospace company Blue Origin.
“Ever since I was 5 years old, I’ve dreamed of traveling to space,” said Bezos in a video post on his personal Instagram account. “On July 20th, I will take that journey with my brother.”
July 20th will be the 52nd anniversary of the 1969 Apollo moon landing by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.
Here’s what we know about Bezos’ trip to space:
What is New Shepard?
Jeff and Mark Bezos will join the winner of an auction of a seat aboard the New Shepard to participate in the flight. The current top bid is $2.8 million.
Blue Origin is hosting an unsealed online bidding period until June 10. Two days later, a live auction will determine the winner.
Named after astronaut Alan Shepard, the first American to go to space, New Shepard features a capsule housing up to six astronauts. A website detailing the rocket system says the spaceflight will last 11 minutes.
“To see the earth from space, it changes you, it changes your relationship with this planet, with humanity,” said Bezos in a video announcing his upcoming trip.
Blue Origin says it has been flight-testing the rocket and its safety systems since 2012.
How safe will Blue Origin flight be?
Human spaceflight is an inherently risky venture. Modern rockets and crew capsules are highly complicated vehicles that use mixtures of potentially explosive liquid propellants to generate thrust, but in the event of a mishap, most have emergency abort systems to protect astronauts.
Blue Origin has so far launched New Shepard from its West Texas launch site 15 times since 2012, all without issues related to the crew capsule secured atop the rocket. The capsule designed primarily for space tourists flies vertically with the booster, separates at a set altitude, then deploys parachutes and fires retro rocketsto slow its descent before touchdown near the original launch pad.
The booster, meanwhile, automatically returns to its launch site and lands vertically. SpaceX’s crew Falcon 9 rocket is similarly reusable and lands on on a drone ship in the Atlantic, though its Crew Dragon capsule splashes down in the Gulf of Mexico instead of the Texas desert.
Ticket prices are still being calculated, but many experts are expecting Blue Origin to charge hundreds of thousands of dollars per person for a New Shepard mission.
Who is Mark Bezos?
Mark Bezos previously served as an advertising executive, having founded his own marketing agency and then sold it in the 2000s.
More recently, he has been leading New York-based HighPost Capital, which investor tracker Crunchbase described as a private equity firm owned by the Bezos family. The firm “focused on opportunities with family-controlled and entrepreneur-led companies,” according to Reuters.
Why is Jeff Bezos stepping down from Amazon?
Last month, Amazon announced Bezos will leave his role as CEO and become executive chair on July 5. At that time, Andy Jassy will assume the CEO position.
“We chose that date because it’s sentimental for me, the day Amazon was incorporated in 1994, exactly 27 years ago,” Bezos said at Amazon’s annual shareholder meeting, held virtually last month.
In a statement detailing his announcement to step down in February, Bezos said now is the “optimal time” to make the transition in leadership.
“If you do it right, a few years after a surprising invention, the new thing has become normal. People yawn,” said Bezos. That yawn is the greatest compliment an inventor can receive.”
In a separate email to employees sent at the time of the February announcement, Bezos said along with working as executive chair, he would “focus my energies and attention on new products and early initiatives.”
Elon Musk wants to go to space, too
Bezos isn’t the only tech entrepreneur with ambitions beyond Earth. Tesla CEO Elon Musk runs his own aerospace company, SpaceX, which made history in May 2020 by becoming the first private enterprise to launch humans to space from U.S. soil.
In early May, a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule safely returned four astronauts home following a six-month mission to the International Space Station.
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Nathan Bomey, Kelly Tyko and Emre Kelly of Florida Today contributed to this report. Follow Brett Molina on Twitter: @brettmolina23.