The Earth was briefly rid of its richest man when Jeff Bezos blasted off to the edge of space on Tuesday morning. The Amazon founder rode a blazing six-story rocket 62 miles above the planet’s surface with three other passengers: His brother Mark, 82-year-old aviation icon Wally Funk, and 18-year-old Dutch high school grad Oliver Daemen. Funk and Daemen concurrently set two records for oldest and youngest person to leave Earth’s atmosphere. It was also the first human flight of the New Shepard rocket — named after the first American astronaut — manufactured by Bezos’s Blue Origin aerospace company.
“Thanks to every Amazon employee and customer—you paid for this,” Bezos said at a Blue Origin press conference after the launch.
The New Shepard booster lifted off under clear skies before 9:15 am from Blue Origin’s remote launch site in Van Horn, Texas. During the roughly 11-minute ride, the rocket traveled up to an invisible dividing line that’s considered the start of space and then detached a capsule in which crew members experienced about three minutes of weightlessness. A radio feed crackled with laughter and excitement from the crew as they gazed over the planet.
“You’ve got a very happy crew, I want you to know,” Jeff Bezos called during the landing, just before the parachutes were deployed. Ultimately, the crew capsule descended to a gentle touchdown in the Texan desert, welcomed back by crying Blue Origin employees watching from afar.