Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has said he will fly into space with his brother on the first human flight launched by his space company, Blue Origin.
In an Instagram post, Bezos said space flight was something he had wanted to do “all my life”.
Blue Origin is also auctioning off a seat in the six-seat capsule, for someone who will join the pair on the inaugural crewed flight.
Bezos is one of the world’s richest people, sometimes the actual richest depending on Amazon share prices. He has a net worth of nearly US$190 billion, according to Forbes magazine.
Bidding for a seat on the New Shepard – the name of the Blue Origin vehicle – had reached US$2.8 million when Bezos announced his plan to take the flight himself. The auction will conclude on June 12.
The New Shepard booster can land upright on the ground after returning from space. It is named after Alan Shepard, the second person and first US citizen to fly into space.
According to Blue Origin’s website the company plans to carry its passengers more than 100km above the Earth’s surface, allowing them to experience microgravity.
The flight will take off on July 20, just two weeks after Bezos steps down as CEO of Amazon. He plans to serve as executive chairman of the e-commerce giant he founded 30 years ago in his garage, allowing him “time and energy” to focus on other ventures.
In addition to New Shepard, Blue Origin is also working to develop a rocket called New Glenn, which the company hopes will be used to send US government and commercial satellites to orbit, as well as potentially make trips to deep space.
“I’m interested in space because I’m passionate about it,” said Bezos. “I’ve been studying it and thinking about it since I was a five.”
Bezos is just one of several billionaires headed for space. Fellow American Elon Musk and Briton Richard Branson are also making good headway.
Dubbed “NewSpace”, they aim to create cheap, commercialised space travel to take the place of government space bodies.
Fuelled by intense rivalries, their ambitions include the development of space tourism and developing permanent human settlement on the Moon and Mars.
But emerging space entrepreneurs are also filling a huge void left by governments that have had to cut funding for space missions.
As a result, names like SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic are becoming important parts of the increasingly lucrative space race.