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ANALYSIS: Jeff Bezos Finally Agreed To Launch Himself Into The Sun

(Photo by MARK RALSTON/AFP via Getty Images)

Bradley Devlin General Assignment & Analysis Reporter
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One of the richest men in the world, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, is preparing to go to space in the first-ever crewed flight launched by his rocket company Blue Origins. But is it safe for him to do so?

The man with a net worth of nearly $200 billion according to Forbes, he founded Blue Origins in 2000 — just six years after he founded Amazon and one year after becoming a billionaire — because of his long-time fascination with space, according to CNN Business. Bezos is scheduled to leave earth (temporarily, if all goes according to plan) on July 20 for the 11-minute journey into space, CNN Business reported. Along with three others, the 57-year-old billionaire will be joined by his brother Mark Bezos and the winner of an auction who paid $28 million in order to ride along, according to the Washington Post

In a June 7 Instagram post, Bezos posted a video announcing he’d be launching himself into space with a caption that read, “Ever since I was five years old, I’ve dreamed of traveling to space. On July 20th, I will take that journey with my brother. The greatest adventure, with my best friend.”

The sub-orbital space trip, which means the capsule will not go high enough to enter a gravitational orbit around the earth, was first announced by Blue Origin in May and will mark the pinnacle of six years of secret testing of the company’s space capsule, which included 15 unmanned test flights at Blue Origin’s facility in rural Texas, according to Business Insider.

 

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The New Shepard capsule, the name given to the vessel that will carry the billionaire and his brother in homage to the first U.S. astronaut to travel into space Alan Shepard, is 59-feet-tall and seats six, CNN Business claimed. The 11 minute sub-orbital space endeavor will send the Blue Origin crew hurtling towards the sun at a rate of more than 2,000 miles per hour and reach about 60 miles above earth’s surface. Rockets that go beyond the sub-orbital level and orbit around the earth are often much larger and must reach orbital velocity — at least 17,000 miles per hour — according to CNN Business.

About three minutes after takeoff, the six-person capsule will separate from the rocket at 250,000 feet in the air, and continue its upward trajectory for another 100,000 feet, the BBC reported. The separation from earth’s surface will allow the capsule’s riders to experience microgravity, the BBC report claimed, which is the feeling of weightlessness that is similar to that experienced by astronauts floating around in space.

However, this part of the trip only lasts three minutes, during which Bezos and company will be able to unbuckle and float about the capsule to get a look at the blue-green dot we call home, or the vast darkness of space, Business Insider noted. The capsule will then make its 350,000-foot descent and deploy large parachutes, causing a significant jerking motion for the crew strapped inside, in order to fall safely back to earth, according to the BBC. (RELATED: Amazon Seeks To Dominate Government Contracting)

Meanwhile, the rocket that propelled the capsule 250,000 feet into the air, will also return to the surface of the earth using air brakes to reduce speed before deploying its landing gear to touch down safely. If this goes according to plan, Blue Origin believes this rocket will be able to be reused in the future, and aid in the creation of a commercial space flight industry, the BBC reported.

Even before Bezos made the decision to put his life in the hands of his engineers, Blue Origin developed safety precautions in order to mitigate as much risk as possible. For example, in the event of a rocket failure, the capsule has the ability to launch away from the rocket prematurely, according to Business Insider.

Historically, the fatality rate of U.S. human spaceflight is around 1%, according to an analysis published by the Center for Space Policy and Strategy in November 2020. This figure seems remarkably low, but is actually quite high considering the fatality rate of flying on a commercial airliner. George Nield, a co-author of the Center for Space Policy and Strategy report, told Business Insider that the space-flight fatality rate is, “pretty high. It’s about 10,000 times more dangerous than flying on a commercial airliner.” Prior to co-authoring the report Nield led the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Office of Commercial Space Transportation, Business Insider noted.

However, because the trip is sub-orbital, some of that 1% of fatal risk is mitigated, Business Insider reported. By staying sub-orbital, the capsule requires a smaller rocket that is easier to control. But, this also means Bezos and his crew mates will not likely have a pilot or a spacesuit on board, Business Insider claimed.

If Bezos and Blue Origin pulls it off, he will edge out rivals such as Tesla and SpaceX’s Elon Musk, CNN Business reported.