VAN HORN, Texas — It’s T-minus 1 day for Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ suborbital spaceflight, and he feels fine.
On Tuesday, the world’s richest individual is due to take a ride on the New Shepard spaceship built by his Blue Origin space venture.
“People keep asking me if I am nervous,” Bezos said today on “CBS This Morning,” during an interview that also included his three crewmates. “I am not really nervous. I am excited. I am curious. I want to know what we are going to learn.”
All four soon-to-be spacefliers seemed in good spirits as the faced the camera in their flight suits.
“We’ve been training,” Bezos said. “This vehicle is ready, this crew is ready, this team is amazing. We just feel really good about it.”
In a video clip that Bezos posted to Instagram, the foursome could be seen checking out a mockup of the New Shepard capsule they’re due to ride above the 100-kilometer (62-mile) space boundary at Blue Origin’s Launch Site One near Van Horn.
Kevin Sprogue, who will serve as a launch-pad guide for the crew, conducted classroom sessions as well as practice sessions in the full-scale simulator, which is called the Tortoise in honor of Blue Origin’s slow-and-steady spaceflight strategy.
“How are you guys doing?” Sprogue asked at one point.
“I literally have had goosebumps since I stepped in,” Jeff Bezos’ brother and crewmate, Mark Bezos, replied. “They haven’t gone away.”
The crew will be stepping into the actual space-ready capsule, known as the RSS First Step (with RSS standing for “Reusable Spaceshlp”), about 45 minutes before Tuesday’s liftoff. Launch is scheduled for 8 a.m. CT (6 a.m. PT). Blue Origin’s website is set to stream video coverage of the countdown and the roughly 11-minute, up-and-down flight starting at 6:30 a.m. CT (4:30 a.m. PT).
There’s no pilot per se. The New Shepard capsule and its booster are designed to operate autonomously, and there’s a rocket-powered escape system to push the capsule away from the booster if an emergency occurs during launch or ascent.
“Personally, I can’t wait for liftoff,” Mark Bezos said during the CBS interview. “Just the rumble of the engine and that acceleration — I can’t wait to see what that’s going to feel like. I’m really excited about that. And I’m not going to lie, I’m going to be pretty excited when I hear those parachutes open, too.”
In between, the Bezos brothers and their crewmates — Dutch student Oliver Daemen and aviation pioneer Wally Funk, who are due to become the world’s youngest and oldest spacefliers — will experience a few minutes of weightlessness at the top of the ride.
For a research project in the early 1960s, Funk went through the same training that the Mercury astronauts experienced. But the training couldn’t provide a minutes-long dose of zero-G in the actual space environment. Now the 82-year-old says she’s looking forward to being “able to do somersaults, and tumble and do anything that I’ve wanted to do.”
Daemen said he hasn’t been getting much sleep since joining the crew last week. The 18-year-old had been signed up for a later spaceflight, but is taking the place of a $28 million auction winner. Blue Origin said the high bidder had to defer the flight due to a scheduling conflict, and Daemen agreed to fill in.
He took his lead from Bezos on the excited vs. nervous question: “I think the excitement just overtakes the nervousness,” Daemen told CBS.
This will be the first crewed flight for Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital launch system, which has gone through 15 uncrewed tests over the past six years. Blue Origin is already signing up customers for follow-up flights, including two crewed missions scheduled for later this year. Ticket prices are being negotiated confidentially, but they’re thought to be in the range of hundreds of thousands of dollars, or even millions of dollars.
At the same time, Virgin Galactic is in the final stages of its own flight test program, with an eye toward taking on commercial passengers for suborbital space trips starting next year. Virgin Galactic’s billionaire founder, Richard Branson, took a high-profile ride last week.
Yet another milestone in private-sector spaceflight is scheduled for September, when billionaire Jared Isaacman and three crewmates are expected to ride a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule into orbit for a free-flying mission that Isaacman is paying for.