Jeff Bezos‘ Blue Origin just recently launched 6 more civilians into space on the New Shepard rocket, the first launch of 2022. The mission, called NS-20, launched on Thursday at 9:57 am. This is the 20th Blue Origin mission since its first launch last summer, and the 4th successful tourism mission. Jeff Bezos wants to double the number of people going to space in 2022, and it looks like he’s on the right track for that.
At a Glance
- Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket launched 6 more people into space on Thursday, March 31.
- NS-20 marks the 20th launch by Blue Origin since last summer
- This was the first launch of 2022
- New Shepard was flown autonomously, and the entire mission lasted 10 minutes
Details of Jeff Bezos’ First Blue Origin Launch of 2022
The 6 passengers on NS-20 were former Party America CEO Marty Allen; Dr. George Nield, former FAA commercial space office leader; University of North Carolina professor Jim Kitchen; Tricor International CEO Marc Hagle and his wife Sharon Hagle; and George Lai, chief architect of New Shepard. Formerly, actor and comedian Pete Davidson was supposed to be aboard but gave up his seat for undisclosed reasons.
There were a few delays on this mission, where Blue Origin fixed some possible issues. But, the launch got underway without a problem on Thursday. Blue Origin launched the rocket from its private facility in West Texas and went above 340,000 feet before returning to Earth. The entire mission lasted 10 minutes, with about 2 minutes of zero-gravity. New Shepard is completely autonomous, needing no pilot, and accelerates to 3 times the speed of sound to break the boundary of what the U.S. deems the edge of space.
In addition to flying civilians on quick space missions, New Shepard also does cargo missions. Instead of passengers, the capsule carries research payloads, according to CNBC. Jeff Bezos said last year that Blue Origin has already sold nearly $100 million worth of tickets for upcoming missions, though The New York Times states that the company has chosen not to disclose the price of a seat.
Who is Going to the Moon First: Blue Origin or SpaceX?
NASA awarded a $2.9 million contract to SpaceX last summer for a moon lander project, and Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin weren’t thrilled. Bezos issued a lawsuit to NASA last year, claiming that NASA was “flawed” and “moved the goal posts at the last minute.” NASA initially aimed to work with multiple partners on the moon lander project, but went solely with SpaceX after claiming that the company submitted the most cost-effective plan “by a wide margin.”
Now, NASA has chosen to work with both SpaceX and Blue Origin. Dynetics is also making a bid for a contract with NASA. Blue Origin stated that it was “thrilled that NASA is creating competition by procuring a second human lunar landing system.”
Bill Nelson, NASA’s administrator, said of the partnership, “I promised competition, so here it is.” Whether NASA chose to work with Blue Origin to avoid a lawsuit is unknown. But, whatever the reason, this move can only further the Artemis lunar project.