UPDATE 06:54 AM PT: Jeff Bezos’ first trip to the edges of space was significant enough to draw coverage from all the major cable news and traditional broadcast networks, relying on the captivating Blue Origin footage of the launch, flight and landing.
“It’s amazing how short this adventure was,” CNN’s Anderson Cooper said after it was clear that Bezos and fellow astronauts were safe at the Texas landing site.
“Yeah, Anderson, but it is still kind of scary, when you are talking about rockets,” Miles O’Brien, aviation analyst who had long covered the NASA space program for the network.
The coverage had some shades of the past, what with some veteran astronauts providing commentary against the anticipation of countdown clocks. But the differences were especially apparent when CNN and other networks patched in audio from the capsule, hoots and cheering could be heard during the brief period of weightlessness, a far cry from the dispassionate communications of the astronauts of the past.
A big part of the coverage focused on the business aspect, that this was Bezos’ privately funded dream and a prelude to a space tourism business, albeit initially out of reach to all but the very rich.
“This could change history. Jeff Bezos has already done it with retail,” Stephanie Ruhle said on MSNBC, as she wondered if the Amazon founder would now make space travel his life’s mission.
“It’s a huge day for America. Only in America could you see this,” Charlie Bolden, the former NASA administrator, said during CBS News’ coverage. Anchor Norah O’Donnell said, “Some have derived this as a billionaire’s supersonic tour ride, but this is more than that for Jeff Bezos. This is the beginning of space tourism.”
To a number of others, the Bezos flight, along with that of Richard Branson, was hardly an Apollo-like moment of American achievement but more like a milestone in the life of a billionaire in a new gilded age.
On Fox News, Susan Li addressed that class conflict, telling Bill Hemmer and Dana Perino, that they are underwriting innovation that the government can’t.
“For all this progressive talk that billionaires shouldn’t exist, they have too pay their fair share of taxes, America seems pretty fixated on the super wealthy.,” Li said “And Bezos is a great example of this evolution of the rich guy, because not only do you have to have these deep pockets like the Rockefeller’s but now you have to be this sort of Howard Hughes action adventurer.”
UPDATE 06:22AM PT: Bezos is back. The billionaire’s craft has successfully touched down in the Texas desert after what appeared to be a seamless 10-minute journey. A cowboy hat-sporting Bezos was seen giving a thumbs up to Blue Origin workers who drove out to retrieve him and his fellow passengers, who were his brother Mark, 82-year-old pilot Wally Funk, and 18-year-old Oliver Daemen.
PREVIOUSLY: Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space flight is go. At 06:12AM PT the New Shepard craft successfully took off from Launch Site One in the West Texas desert. The journey will last for roughly 11 minutes, with the shuttle reaching a set suborbital height before separating, allowing for a period of weightlessness before the crew will descend in their capsule under parachutes for a ground landing.
Today, July 20, marks 52 years to the date that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed the Apollo 11 Module on the moon.
Bezos becomes only the second billionaire in the last fortnight to venture into space, following Richard Branson, who took off with Virgin Galactic on July 11.
Accompany Bezos on the flight are his brother Mark Bezos, pilot Wally Funk, and 18-year-old Oliver Daemen, who today becomes the youngest ever person to venture into space. Daemen wasn’t on the original passenger list, with an anonymous party winning the auction for $28M before dropping out due to scheduling conflicts. On the same token, Funk, at 82 years old, becomes the oldest ever astronaut to make the trip.
Bezos and co are aiming to cross the Karman Line, which is the defined border between our atmosphere and outer space and sits roughly 100km (62 miles) above the planet’s sea level.
Technically, Branson’s spacecraft didn’t cross the Karman Line, so Bezos could claim superiority in the Space Race. Not that it’s a competition or anything.
To date, only around 570 people have ever made the journey to space, but companies such as Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are aiming to make space travel a viable commercial operation – ‘space tourism’ – that could see many more members of the public awarded their astronaut wings in the coming decades. Trips are expected to cost between $250,000 and $500,000 a go.
Over to you SpaceX founder Elon Musk, who today was the wealthiest man on Earth, albeit only for the brief period while Bezos was off the planet.
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