Jeff Bezos is due to take off on Tuesday a few days after his competitor Richard Branson. Are the two men laying the foundations for the tourism of the future? We take stock in five questions.
The richest man on the planet, Jeff Bezos is preparing to leave her briefly on Tuesday to join the astronaut club, with the first manned flight of his company Blue Origin, a new pivotal moment for the burgeoning space tourism industry. The mission comes nine days after Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson also crossed the confines of Earth’s atmosphere, topping the Amazon mogul in this billionaire battle.
Will parachute jumps soon be completely out of date? To get your fill of thrills, and admire the Earth from above, space travel could become the new trendy gift. At least with a little more patience. And a lot of money. Overview of the various services offered to aspiring space tourists.
Who offers these flights?
Two companies are positioned in the niche of short trips in space (a few minutes): Blue Origin, the company of Jeff Bezos, and Virgin Galactic, founded by billionaire Richard Branson. At Blue Origin, a rocket takes off vertically, and the capsule in which the passengers are located detaches in flight until reaching 100 km high, before falling back to Earth slowed down by three parachutes.
Virgin Galactic, for its part, uses a huge carrier plane, which takes off from a conventional runway, then drops a vessel resembling a large private jet at altitude. This ignites its engine until it exceeds 80 km of altitude, then descends while gliding. Either way, the up to six passengers can pull away from their seats to float in zero gravity, and admire the curvature of the Earth.
When can we fly?
Virgin Galactic has announced the start of regular commercial operations for early 2022, after two final test flights. But the queue will be long: 600 tickets have already been sold. But Virgin Galactic said it plans to eventually 400 flights per year maximum, per space base. However, two people will be drawn to participate in one of the first flights: registrations are open until September 1.
As for Blue Origin, no precise timetable announced. “We are planning two more flights this year,” after Jeff Bezos himself, “and many more in 2022,” a spokeswoman said. Another solution: participate in a reality TV show. The Space Hero program aims to send the winner of a competition to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2023.
How much will that cost?
The first tickets sold by Virgin Galactic cost between 200,000 and 250,000 dollars each (around 184,000 to 230,000 Swiss francs). But the company warned that future seats on sale would be more expensive. Blue Origin did not announce a price, but a seat on the first manned flight was auctioned for … $ 28 million.
For less (still $ 125,000 per person), you can otherwise board the Space Perspective ship: a capsule with a 360 ° view, slowly pulled by a ball the size of a football stadium. . Despite spectacular views, however, you will only go at an altitude of 30 km, so still far from the border of space, and weightlessness. The 300 places available for 2024 have all been sold, but reservations for 2025 are open.
What physical prerequisites?
A priori, only a good physical shape is necessary. For Virgin Galactic, training should last only 5 days. Blue Origin’s first flight will carry even the oldest person to ever be in space, an 82-year-old ex-pilot. Among the criteria that were requested when auctioning a place on board: not being dizzy, being able to climb the equivalent of 7 floors in less than 90 seconds (for the launch tower), and not doing more than 100 kg.
What about SpaceX?
SpaceX is also considering space tourism flights, but much more ambitious, for several days and much longer. The cost of the trip aboard the Falcon 9 rocket, which powers the Dragon capsule, amounts to tens of millions of dollars here. In September, a mission chartered by American billionaire Jared Isaacman, Inspiration4, is to take him and three other passengers into orbit around the Earth. Then in January 2022, three businessmen will travel to the ISS with an experienced astronaut. The mission, named Ax-1, is organized by the company Axiom Space, which has signed up for three other future flights with SpaceX.
Elon Musk’s company is also planning a trip to orbit for four people, organized by the intermediary company Space Adventures, the same in charge of the flight of the Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa in the ISS in December, but aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket. Finally, this same Yusaku Maezawa is due to take a trip around the Moon in 2023, this time aboard a rocket still under development by SpaceX, Starship. He said he wanted to bring eight lucky ones in the process of being selected… but registrations are closed.
Space tourism firm Blue Origin’s first manned flight will take off on Tuesday with four passengers on board, three men and a woman with very different experiences.
Captain, Jeff Bezos At 57, the richest man on Earth will leave the blue planet aboard his own rocket: the New Shepard spacecraft, built by the Blue Origin company he founded in 2000. Six years earlier, he had started a small online bookstore, Amazon.com, from his garage. It has become, thanks to its many innovations, a sprawling group which is now worth more than 1700 billion dollars on the stock market, regularly the target of criticism of the working conditions of its employees. The one who calls himself “passionate about invention and space sciences” has just left the management of Amazon to devote himself to other adventures, starting with his space expeditions.
The brother, Mark BezosJeff Bezos has invited his brother Mark, who is six years younger than him and whom he considers his “best friend”. “He’s the funniest guy around me,” he once said of his younger brother. After working in advertising agencies, Mark Bezos founded his marketing company in 1999, then co-founded an investment fund. He also owns shares in Amazon. In a video, he said he was “blown away” to be invited aboard New Shepard. “What an incredible chance, not only to live this adventure, but to do it with my best friend!”
The Dean, Wally FunkAt 82, this pioneer and aviation legend, billionaire’s “guest of honor”, is about to become the oldest person to travel in space and achieve a dream of a lifetime. At the age of nine, she took her first flying lessons and now has 19,600 flying hours to her credit. In the 1960s, she had participated in a private program designed to test the performance of women subjected to the same tests as the men selected by NASA to become astronauts. “They told me I did the job better and faster than any of the men,” she said. But the program is stopped: NASA does not want it.
The youngest, Olivier DaemenAt 18, this Dutchman is preparing to become the youngest cosmonaut in history. His father, who chairs a private equity fund, participated in the auction for the fourth seat. It was a wealthy anonymous who had won the place by paying 28 million dollars, but an “impediment” forced him to give up, this time. Olivier Daemen, fascinated by the Moon and rockets since the age of four, will replace him. “I’m super excited to find myself weightless and see the world from above,” he commented in a video uploaded.