An unnamed bidder has paid $28 million for a seat on the first crewed spaceflight by Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin.
On Saturday the company hosted an online auction, inviting wealthy space enthusiasts to bid for the final seat on the July 20 flight. There was interest from more than 40 countries.
The mystery bidder will join Bezos himself, his brother Mark Bezos, and another unnamed space tourist. Bids had been open for just under a month and had already reached $5 million before Saturday’ event, when the figure quickly rose to $28 million.
Blue Origin said the identity of the winning bidder would be revealed in the coming weeks.
The company’s space tourism offering involves launching passengers more than 100km above the Earth, allowing them to experience microgravity. The ten-minute ride begins with a booster and six-person capsule launching together. At about 76km, capsule separates from the booster, which returns to Earth and lands, allowing it to be reused. The capsule floats back to Earth with parachutes.
Blue Origin will play a key part in the resurgent space tourism industry. Elon Musk’s SpaceX has also auctioned off a seat on one of its flights, although the trip will be considerably longer, orbiting the moon before returning to Earth.
Virgin Galactic, the other major player in the space, has also been conducting test flights on its offering, which reaches a similar altitude to Blue Origin. It is thought CEO Richard Branson may attempt to trump Bezos’s efforts by joining a test flight of his company’s Virgin VSS Unity spaceplane on July 4.
“Many congratulations to Jeff Bezos & his brother Mark on announcing spaceflight plans,” Branson said in a tweet. “Jeff started building @blueorigin in 2000, we started building @virgingalactic in 2004 & now both are opening up access to Space – how extraordinary! Watch this space … ”
Bezos will soon have considerably more time to spend on his interest in space travel, as he steps down from Amazon in the second half of 2021.