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Billionaire Jeff Bezos and space tourists hit new heights

Megan Palin and Merryn Johns, July 21, 2021 8:13AM News Corp Australia Network

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The New Shepard crew Oliver Daemen, Jeff Bezos, Wally Funk and Mark Bezos celebrate after returning to Earth after their visit to space. Picture: Getty Images/AFP media_cameraThe New Shepard crew Oliver Daemen, Jeff Bezos, Wally Funk and Mark Bezos celebrate after returning to Earth after their visit to space. Picture: Getty Images/AFP

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American billionaire Jeff Bezos has soared into space on a reusable rocket built by his company Blue Origin.

The world’s richest man was joined on the flight by his younger brother, Mark Bezos, teenage tourist Oliver Daemen and 82-year-old female aviation* pioneer* Wally Funk.

The New Shepard rocket was launched from the company’s Launch Site One near Van Horn, in Texas, at 11pm AEST*, in a milestone* mission for the space tourism company.

The crew experienced a few minutes of weightlessness as the space capsule soared past the Karman line, the internationally recognised boundary of space, to reach an altitude of about 100km above Earth.

media_cameraThe crew experienced a few minutes of weightlessness in space aboard the Blue Origin capsule. Picture: AFP Photo

The rocket created a sonic boom* before returning to the ground in an upright position, and successfully landing about 11 minutes after it launched.

The capsule containing the four space tourists then drifted back to land with the help of six parachutes.

Mr Bezos said it was the “best day ever” when ground crew checked on him inside the capsule after it landed.

Mr Bezos emerged from the capsule wearing a cowboy hat. He and the other passengers were greeted by family and friends after landing.

media_cameraBillionaire Jeff Bezos emerges from the capsule after it successfully landed with the help of six parachutes. Picture: AFP Photo

The journey made Oliver, a Dutch physics student, the youngest person to visit space and former NASA trainee Ms Funk the oldest.

Mr Bezos described the space flight as the “perfect mission” and said he wanted to go again.

“Oh my God … My expectations were high, and they were dramatically exceeded,” he said after landing.

“You feel comfortable, it’s not weird at all,” he added.

Ms Funk also expressed her wish to repeat the experience.

“We had a great time, it was wonderful,” she said. “I want to go again, fast!”

She said she just wished the flight was longer and that she had room for some somersaults in weightlessness.

Blue Origin Launch media_cameraThe capsule sits on top of the New Shepard rocket as it blasts off from the launch site in Van Horn, Texas. Picture: Getty Images/AFP

The launch came two weeks after Mr Bezos stepped aside as Amazon boss, and just nine days after rival billionaire Sir Richard Branson went into space aboard Virgin Galactic’s first fully crewed spaceflight.

Although Sir Richard beat Mr Bezos in a landmark moment for the fledgling* space tourism industry, Blue Origin has claimed its spaceflight experience is superior*.

Blue Origin’s rocket broke the internationally-recognised boundary of space at an altitude of 100km, while Virgin Galactic passed the 80km border that is recognised by the US.

Blue Origin also claims to be more environmentally friendly, with its New Shepard reusable spacecraft more eco-friendly than Virgin Galactic’s air-launched spaceplane, which emits greenhouse gases and soot.

Blue Origin’s ambitions also extend beyond Virgin Galactic’s space tourism plans, with Mr Bezos aiming to become a major contractor for NASA missions.

Currently, NASA’s leading private sector* partner is Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which began taking astronauts to the International Space Station in 2020 and is developing a deep space rocket for future missions to Mars.

media_cameraThe New Shepard crew pose for a shot before their historic flight. Picture: AFP PHOTO

According to Mr Bezos, he has been fascinated by space since watching the Apollo moon landing on July 20, 1969, as a child. He chose the date of his launch to coincide with 52nd anniversary of the moon landing.

He believes space will play a role in the future of the human species and in taking environmental pressure off earth.

He has spoken about the possibility of humans living in space colonies, drawing ideas from science fiction writers as well as scientists.

“We humans have to go to space if we are going to continue to have a thriving civilisation,” Mr Bezos told a 2019 CBS News interview.

“We have become big as a population, as a species, and this planet is relatively small. We see it in things like climate change and pollution and heavy industry. We are in the process of destroying this planet … we have to preserve this planet.”

GLOSSARY

  • aviation: to do with flying
  • pioneer: person who is among the first to do something
  • AEST: Australian Eastern Standard Time
  • milestone: a significant stage or event in the development of something
  • sonic boom: loud noise caused by the shockwave created when an object travels through air faster than the speed of sound
  • fledgling: something that is young and still developing
  • superior: better
  • private sector: the businesses that are run by individuals and not governments

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Space tourists to go into super-high orbit in 2021

QUICK QUIZ

  1. What is the name of Jeff Bezos’ space company?
  2. What is the name of the rocket that took the four passengers to space?
  3. Who were the other three passengers that joined Jeff Bezos on the flight?
  4. What altitude did the rocket reach above Earth?
  5. Why did Jeff Bezos chose July 20 to launch into space?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Blue Origin v Virgin Galactic
Compare and contrast the similarities and differences between the Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic Space enterprises. Include information about the owners, the spacecraft, the astronauts, and other details mentioned in the Kids News article.

Create a table with two columns. Write “Blue Origin” at the top of one column and “Virgin Galactic” at the top of the other. Now list your observations about each company and their space plans in these columns.

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Critical and creative thinking

2. Extension
Jeff Bezos believes space will play a role in the future of the human species and in taking environmental pressure off earth. How much do you agree or disagree with this statement? Explain your reasoning and what you think space travel might look like in the future.

Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Critical and creative thinking

VCOP ACTIVITY
Read with Kung Fu Punctuation
Pair up with the article between you and stand up to make it easy to demonstrate your Kung Fu Punctuation.

Practice reading one sentence at a time. Now read it again, while acting out the punctuation as you read.

Read and act three sentences before swapping with your partner. Have two turns each.

Now as a challenge ask your partner to read a sentence out loud while you try and act out the punctuation. Can you keep up? Now swap over.

Are you laughing yet?

Have fun acting out your punctuation.

Extra Reading in space