Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos' space company, successfully launched its fourth space tourism mission on Thursday, taking six passengers into outer space. The trip, which lasted 10 minutes and four seconds, is another milestone for Blue Origin, one of the leading firms in a quickly-growing private space industry.
Thursday's trip was the 20th mission for New Shepard, Blue Origin's reusable suborbital rocket system that's named after astronaut Alan Shepard. Launching at 8:57:55 am CDT, the New Shepard reached a maximum ascent velocity of 2,236 mph. The crew capsule reached an apogee of 106 km AGL (above ground level), putting it just past the Kármán line, which is recognized as the boundary between Earth's atmosphere and outer space.
The crew included five paying customers, as well as Blue Origin Chief Architect Gary Lai. Joining Lai were businessman Marty Allen; real estate developer Marc Hagle and his wife Sharon Hagle, who founded the nonprofit SpaceKids Global; entrepreneur Jim Kitchen; and Dr. George Nield, president of Commercial Space Technologies. Blue Origin does not disclose how much customers pay to travel to space.
Bezos himself was part of the crew on the New Shepard's first human flight last year, along with his younger brother Mark Bezos, female aviator Wally Funk and 18-year-old Oliver Daemen. The next two trips made headlines for their celebrity crew members, including William Shatner and Good Morning America host Michael Strahan. Comedian Pete Davidson was slated to join the New Shepard's fourth human mission, but he dropped out of the plans earlier this month.
Blue Origin's competitor Virgin Galactic launched its first crewed space flight, with founder Richard Branson aboard, beating Blue Origin to space. However, Virgin Galactic has not had any crewed missions since then.