Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin is offering up one seat on the inaugural flight of its suborbital rocket New Shepard, set to take place July 20 — but instead of a fixed-price ticket sale, the seat will go to the highest bidder.
It’ll work like this: From May 5-19, bidders will be able to bid any amount on an auction website. From May 19, the bids will be made “unsealed,” or made visible, and bidders must continually exceed the highest bid to remain in the running for the seat. Bidding will conclude June 12 with a live online auction.
From Blue Origin’s website, it looks like the overall flight will be relatively quick, with the craft reaching apogee, or its highest point, four minutes after takeoff. The capsule containing the astronauts (and the lucky bidder) will land 10 minutes after takeoff near its launch site in West Texas.
Blue Origin said the winning bid will be donated to its charitable foundation, Club for the Future.
In recent weeks Blue Origin has conducted a dress rehearsal of astronaut loading and unloading. This is only the most recent move from the company, which has been testing and flight-certifying its spacecraft for the past few years.
Update: At a media briefing Wednesday, Blue Origin’s director of astronaut sales Ariane Cornell provided a few more details about the upcoming flight, but much is still a mystery.
Crew members will head to the West Texas launch site four days before launch for three days of training, she explained. They’ll be flying in a capsule designed to optimize the consumer experience, with the largest windows that have ever flown in space. It’s also pressurized, meaning crew won’t need to wear their own suits during the flight.
In terms of safety, Cornell said an “escape motor” is built into the rocket that would fire if any issues are detected to get the capsule (and people) away from the booster. While this mechanism is totally autonomous, there is a fire suppression system and oxygen masks that crew members may need to use manually in the case of a catastrophe.
“This is the type of design that has given us at Origin, our entire team, the confidence to say, ‘It is time to put people on board,’ ” Cornell said.
Cornell declined to share the projected ticket prices for future flights, but she did note that the company will conduct a few more crewed flights before the end of the year.
Cornell also did not provide details of the rest of the New Shepard’s inaugural crew, so it’s unclear if they will be Blue Origin employees or outside astronauts. In terms of physical requirements for the winning bidder, Cornell directed people to the terms and conditions on Blue Origin’s website. The winner bidder must be able to climb seven flights of stairs in 90 seconds, and they have to be between 5’0” – 6’4” and between 110-223 lbs, the T&Cs state.
“We’re ready to go,” Cornell said.