Amazon’s soon-to-be-ex-CEO Jeff Bezos announced today (June 7) that he will fly to space with his brother Mark Bezos on July 20.
Jeff and Mark Bezos will fly into space on Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft, a fully automated rocket with room for six people onboard. It’s designed to cross the boundary of space (which is defined by different agencies as being roughly 50 to 60 miles above sea level) in 11 minutes. Blue Origin is auctioning off one seat on the spacecraft—if you’re interested, and have more than $2.8 million handy, you can submit a bid here. (The proceeds will go to Blue Origin’s charity.)
Mark Bezos is Jeff’s younger brother. They also have a sister, Christina. Mark is co-founder of a private equity firm called HighPost Capital and sits on the board of the Bezos Family Foundation. He is best-known for a popular TED Talk from 2011 about his experience as a volunteer firefighter.
“I wasn’t even expecting him to say that he was going to be on the first flight,” Mark says in the video posted to Jeff’s Instagram, “and then when he asked me to go along, I was just awe-struck.”
The Bezos brothers’ flight to space is scheduled for July 20, two weeks after Bezos is set to step down as Amazon’s CEO, and 52 years since Apollo 11 landed on the moon, and Neil Armstrong proclaimed it “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” In an interview with Mark, Jeff has said that watching the moon landing as a 5-year-old was a formative moment in his passion for space travel.
It wasn’t always a given that Jeff Bezos would be first to market in the new world of space tourism. As Tim Fernholz wrote a few months ago, Blue Origin is typically considered less audacious than Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
But in a few weeks Bezos will do something that Musk has yet to do, which is to fly to space in one of his own spacecraft.
Same for Richard Branson, the British businessman who founded Virgin Galactic to compete with Blue Origin. The company has already sold 600 tickets between $200,000 and $250,000 each for trips on the SpaceShipTwo spacecraft, the first of which is tentatively scheduled for late this year with Branson on board.
Meanwhile, SpaceX said it would send its first “all-civilian mission” to space at the end of this year to raise money for St. Jude’s Research Hospital. The key difference between that flight and Blue Origin or Virgin Galactic is that SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft will take the 7-person crew into orbit for several days, while the other two flights will be suborbital.
Buckle up, folks. The space race is primed for takeoff.