FP StaffJun 08, 2021 18:16:49 IST
He is the man who has arguably done more than anybody else to bring the supermarket to your fingertips. Now, he plans to send humans to the last frontier: Space. Although he is not the only billionaire with an interest in space, Bezos is set to become the richest man to head into the great nothingness when he takes off on a rocket made by his own company in July.
Why is Bezos going to space?
Mostly, for sightseeing. But the flight is also significant because it will be the first mission featuring a crew of the New Shepard rocket and capsule created by Blue Origin, the space exploration company owned by Bezos, at present reportedly the second-richest person on Earth with a net worth of more than $185 billion.
The spacecraft has seen 15 test flights, but none with any humans on board. On his space ride slated for July 20, Bezos will be accompanied by his brother Mark and the winner of an auction for a seat on the flight. Blue Origin has said more than 5,000 bids have come in from across the world for a ticket on the flight and that the current highest bid stood at $2.8 million in the ongoing second round of auction after the company closed the first round. However, the names of the top bidders have not been revealed.
New Shepard — the rocket that will take Bezos to space
The New Shepard craft that Bezos and company will take to space is reportedly a rocket-and-capsule combo that is designed to autonomously fly six passengers more than 62 miles (100 km) — where space is officially agreed to begin — above Earth into suborbital space.
The rocket measures 60-ft from tip to base and is named after Alan Shepard, the first American to go to space.
Blue Origin also has another rocket in its fleet, the New Glenn, named after US astronaut John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth. The New Glenn is a
270-ft tall giant that is expected to carry large payloads into orbit.
With cheap space travel a watchword for a new generation of billionaire entrepreneurs, both New Shepard and New Glenn are vertical take off and vertical landing craft that can be reused multiple times.
What should passengers expect on a trip to space?
According to Blue Origin, a spin to the margin of infinity on board the New Shepard can last about 11 minutes. Passengers would be able to see Earth against the blackness of space and feel weightlessness. After the trip is over, the pressurised capsule will head back to Earth using parachutes. The capsule has six observation windows.
Apart from Bezos, here are the other billionaires and their plan for space travel
While British billionaire Richard Branson has his Virgin Galactic and Tesla owner Elon Musk has his own plans to take humans into the deeper reaches of the cosmos with SpaceX, Bezos is set to pip both as the first billionaire in space.
“Ever since I was five years old, I’ve dreamed of travelling to space,” Bezos said in an Instagram post announcing his planned trip.
Bezos also potentially moves up the queue ahead of Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa who has signed up for not one, but two trips to space: first, a trip to the International Space Station this December aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and, later in 2023, a trip around the moon on SpaceX’s Starship vehicle.
Is space travel safe?
According to Nasa, hazards that a space explorer can expect to encounter can be placed into five categories: “radiation, isolation and confinement, distance from Earth, gravity (or lack thereof), and hostile/closed environments”. Nasa adds though that “these hazards do not stand alone” and can “feed off one another and exacerbate effects on the human body”. These risks are analysed and efforts to mitigate them includes the International Space Station, which Nasa says “serves as a test bed to evaluate human performance and countermeasures required for the exploration of space”.
But what about insurance, you may ask. Well, news agency Reuters said that insurers are yet to devise instruments that cover space travel. “You will sign this waiver of liability and provided there’s no gross negligence or willful misconduct, if you don’t survive, unfortunately, there’s probably no financial recovery,” the agency quoted an official at an insurance firm as saying.
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