Jeff Bezos, the billionaire founder of Amazon, is to fly into space with his brother days after stepping down from the top role at the tech titan.
Mr Bezos will fly beyond the Earth’s atmosphere on the first human flight of his space travel company Blue Origin’s reusable New Shepard launch vehicle on July 20.
In an Instagram video announcing the flight, Mr Bezos said: “To see the Earth from space, it changes you, it changes your relationship with this planet, with humanity. It’s one Earth.
“I want to go on this flight because it’s a thing I’ve wanted to do all my life. It’s an adventure. It’s a big deal for me,” he continued.
Mr Bezos will be accompanied on the flight by his brother, Mark Bezos, who runs the family’s private equity firm HighPost Capital.
Rocket man: Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos is heading to space
The Amazon founder said: “I invited my brother to come on this first flight because we’re closest friends."
The flight is scheduled to take place 15 days after Mr Bezos steps down as Amazon chief executive on July 5, handing day-to-day running of the business to current Amazon Web Services head Andy Jassy.
Blue Origin announced the flight in May but at the time did not reveal that Mr Bezos and his brother would be travelling on board.
The rocket will travel 100km (62 miles) above sea level into space before the crew capsule detaches. The rocket and capsule will then return to earth, with the capsule touching down in the West Texas desert using parachutes to slow its descent.
Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin is competing with Elon Musk's SpaceX in a private sector space race
The third passenger on the flight to space with the Bezos brothers will be the winner of an auction currently being held by Blue Origin. Bidding for the spot has reached $2.8m (£1.9m), with proceeds set to be donated to charity.
The flight will fulfil a lifelong dream for Mr Bezos, a self-confessed space fanatic, who once appeared in the film Star Trek Beyond in a cameo dressed as an alien.
It will also be the climax of a two-decade journey by Mr Bezos’s space company, Blue Origin. Originally founded in 2000, Blue Origin operated in secret for years before revealing its rocket, New Shepard, in 2015.
An illustration of the Blue Origin space tourism capsule
Credit: Blue Origin via AP
Mr Bezos has also sketched out a vision for giant cities in space populated with millions of people.
His vision for Blue Origin has set him up as a rival to Mr Musk, who also has plans to colonise the Moon and Mars with his rocket company SpaceX.
But in April, the US awarded a $2.9bn contract for its Moon lander project to SpaceX, despite furious protest from Mr Bezos’s company.
Mr Bezos has sunk billions of dollars of his own wealth into Blue Origin, publicly stating that he will spend around $1bn per year on the project, funded by sales of Amazon stock.
Mr Musk and Mr Bezos have sparred for years over regulations surrounding Mr Musk’s satellite venture, Starlink, which plans to put thousands of broadband small sats into orbit. Mr Musk accused Amazon’s rival project of trying to "hamstring" his efforts.
Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos’ history of trading insults
But Blue Origin has found itself largely in the shadow of SpaceX, which has already completed more than 100 flights with its rockets compared to around 15 Blue Origin flights.
SpaceX made history last May with its first manned rocket mission and in November transported its first astronauts to the International Space Station.
In April, Blue Origin accused SpaceX of "lies" in its lobbying over Nasa’s lunar project.
Nasa’s moon landing mission, Project Artemis, is expected to cost $35bn with the goal of landing Americans on the moon again by 2024.
Mr Musk’s company had warned lawmakers in the US of a "hand-out" to Mr Bezos’s company that would hand "space leadership to China".
Blue Origin responded, saying: "What is Elon Musk afraid of… a little competition?"
Mr Musk also has ambitions to visit space, and other planets, himself. He said in 2013: "I’ve said I want to die on Mars, just not on impact."
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