Regardless of the causes, Bezos’ announcement was shocking. Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith defended the plan in a preflight briefing, saying that the 2 most up-to-date check flights proved that every one programs had been prepared, and since every part controlling the spacecraft runs autonomously, there was no want for human apply. “We didn’t see any worth, fairly truthfully, from doing issues stepwise,” he stated, skipping straight to the ferocious a part of the corporate’s motto. So there could be no human check flight, however a high-stakes maiden voyage with the boss, his brother, an octogenarian, and a youngster.

Within the run-up to the flight, the usually press-shy firm instantly turned showbiz, releasing shiny movies and pictures of the crew decked out of their brilliant blue jumpsuits. Authentic plans to accommodate a modest press contingent received jettisoned like a booster rocket, as the corporate invited dozens of reporters to its distant location within the West Texas desert, the place Bezos owns over 300,000 acres and a mountain vary.

At 7:25 Central Daylight Time, on the corporate’s launch pad, the passengers climbed 5 flights of steps, scaling the peak of the 160-foot New Shepard reusable rocket, pausing briefly inside an fireproof “astronaut security shelter,” a tightly enclosed fireproof room that can be utilized within the occasion of an emergency evacuation. Then Bezos led the crew throughout a skybridge—every ringing a silver ceremonial bell as they crossed—to the capsule, which rests on New Shepard like, properly, a intercourse toy. At 7:34, they entered the hatch and buckled themselves in. Funk caught a postcard of herself as a Mercury 13 candidate to her window, with plans to shoot an image of it when she reached area. At 7:43, Blue Origin technicians closed the hatch and climbed down from the gantry. It was T-minus 21 minutes.

The 2 earlier suborbital NASA launches—60 years in the past—concerned numerous checking gauges and flipping switches. Bezos and his crew didn’t have any of that to fret about: New Shepard is totally AI-driven. They may watch the countdown from private viewing screens on the edges of the massive home windows designed for a luxurious view of the Earth and area.

There had been some reviews of potential rain, however the day was gorgeous and clear. The countdown proceeded with solely a slight maintain at 15 minutes; then the rely restarted. The system handed via a remaining two minutes of checks, all performed by an auto sequence, after which a voice from mission management started the countdown: “10, 9, 8, 7, 6 … command engines begin, 2 1.”

At 8:12 am, steam poured out of the underside of the booster for a few seconds. “We’ve liftoff,” stated the voice from the small mission management room on the bottom. Then the rocket jumped like a dart, crusing upwards till all that was left to see was a fuzzy contrail, a donut signifying the non permanent gap within the sky that New Shepard had slipped via.

About three minutes later, the capsule, RSS First Step, separated from the rocket and pushed previous the Earth’s environment. This was it: The crew was weightless. They had been area vacationers. Whereas the reside feed didn’t give the 1000’s of on-line viewers real-time video, you would make out among the audio that captured the joyous exclamations because the crew unbuckled and floated.

“Holy cow!”

“Good God!”

“Look out the window!”

“Whoooooooo!”

The New Shepard rocket had already begun its descent to Earth when the capsule gently started the journey residence. A sonic growth introduced the rocket’s return, and in a burst of fireside it landed safely on its pad. Not lengthy after, three crimson, white, and blue parachutes deployed above the capsule. “You might have a really blissful crew up right here, I need you to know,” Bezos instructed the management room.