Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin to auction off space tourism ticket

6 May 2021

Image: Blue Origin

The billionaire’s company is holding an auction for a seat on a suborbital flight this July in a first for commercial space tourism.

Blue Origin, the space firm founded by Jeff Bezos, is opening up a seat on its passenger spacecraft in a big move for commercial space travel.

The company will auction off a seat on its New Shepard spacecraft for a suborbital sightseeing trip in July.

The New Shepard, named after astronaut Alan Shepard, can fly autonomously and carry six passengers more than 100km above the Earth. It will launch from and land at a base in Texas. The other five passengers are selected by Blue Origin.

The well-heeled passenger that wins the auction will be able to view the curvature of the Earth and experience weightlessness. The trip will be a key moment for the private commercial space travel sector in the race to bring paying passengers to space.

Initial bidding will open this week and conclude with a live auction on 12 June. The proceeds from the auction will be donated to Blue Origin’s Club for the Future foundation, which supports STEM careers and education.

“New Shepard has flown 15 successful consecutive missions to space and back above the Kármán Line [the boundary between Earth and outer space] through a meticulous and incremental flight program to test its multiple redundant safety systems,” the company said in a statement.

“Now, it’s time for astronauts to climb onboard.”

After the July flight, Blue Origin intends to run more passenger flights before the end of the year.

The company has not indicated how much tickets will eventually cost for a space flight, but ballpark figures in media reports over the years have suggested a price of at least $200,000.

Billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, one of Blue Origin’s chief rivals, has also been pre-selling tickets for its own passenger flights.

As well as commercial space travel, Blue Origin also works with agencies like NASA but recently criticised the agency over its awarding of a $2.9bn contract to Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

Jonathan Keane is a freelance business and technology journalist based in Dublin