Even Jeff Bezos was impressed when Blue Origin’s suborbital space booster and capsule mockup went on display at the EAA AirVenture air show in Oshkosh, Wis.
The line to get a look inside the New Shepard capsule snaked around the equivalent of city blocks, as shown in an aerial view that the billionaire founder of Blue Origin (and a little side venture called Amazon) tweeted today:
— Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) August 2, 2017
SpaceX founder Elon Musk might bristle at Bezos’ reference to a “first,” but it’s technically true: The booster made its first suborbital flight to outer space and back in November 2015, a month before SpaceX did its first rocket flyback in connection with an orbital launch.
Since then, Blue Origin’s booster went through four more launches and landings, and for the past year, it’s been taking a victory lap around the country.
At first, it was shown off only to those who could get inside Blue Origin’s rocket production facility and headquarters in Kent, Wash. In March, it was taken to Amazon’s MARS conference in California. In April, folks who attended this year’s Space Symposium (including yours truly) got a peek in Colorado. Here’s a video recap:
For the past week, it’s been Oshkosh’s turn. The annual air show brings well more than a half-million aviation enthusiasts to Wisconsin, and this year the topics included the history of the Apollo space program, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s Stratolaunch space venture – and of course, Blue Origin.
In a video posted to Instagram, you can hear Bezos’ voiceover as Buzz Aldrin and other Apollo-era astronauts troop into the New Shepard capsule mockup to try out the seats. He said having the space pioneers on board was “very, very meaningful.”
“These guys had the adventure of a lifetime,” Bezos said. “We’re just so lucky to have them. Space changes people. Every time you talk to an astronaut … they will tell you that when you look back at the Earth and see how beautiful it is, and how fragile it is, with that thin limb of Earth’s atmosphere, it really makes you appreciate home.”
Ariane Cornell, the company’s head of astronaut strategy and sales, was quoted as telling the Oshkosh crowd that New Shepard should start sending passengers on suborbital space rides “in the next year or two.”
Hardware for New Shepard is being built in Kent, and the flights blast off from a space facility nestled amid Bezos’ sprawling ranchland in West Texas.
At the same time, Blue Origin is working on an orbital-class launch vehicle called New Glenn. The Florida factory where New Glenn is to take shape should be ready for operations early next year, and Blue Origin plans to start launching those rockets by 2020.
And as for that space-flown New Shepard booster? Bezos has said he eventually plans to donate it to a museum for long-term display. Let’s hope that Seattle’s Museum of Flight is in the running.