Wearing a cowboy hat and blue flight suit, Bezos, 57, gave a thumbs-up from inside the capsule after landing in the West Texas desert before stepping out to hug family members and Blue Origin colleagues.
“Best day ever,” Bezos, accompanied by the world’s oldest and youngest space travelers, said after his space capsule descended with three large parachutes and touched down, kicking up a cloud of dust.
The crew launched from Blue Origin’s Launch Site One facility in West Texas at 9 a.m. ET and were in flight for 10 minutes and 20 seconds. Bezos’ trip comes nine days after Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson flew to about 85 km in the air aboard a rocket ship he helped fund.
Bezos, who founded Blue Origin two decades ago, described the company’s first crewed space flight as a step toward an ambitious future.
Blue Origin plans for two more passenger flights this year. Bezos said it has not determined its future pace of flights after that but said it is approaching $100 million in private sales.
“The demand is very, very high,” Bezos told a news conference.
“We’re going to build a road to space so that our kids and their kids can build a future … We need to do that to solve the problems here on Earth,” Bezos added.
Joining Bezos on the flight was Oliver Daemen, the 18-year-old son of a Dutch auction bidder, who is the youngest person to ever go to space. The launch also featured the oldest person to go to space, 82-year-old Wally Funk.
Funk is one of 13 female pilots who passed the same rigorous testing as the NASA Mercury 7 male astronauts in the early 1960s but never made it into space because only men were allowed at the time.
Bezos embraced Funk after the landing.
“I’ve been waiting a long time,” Funk said afterward. “I want to go again – fast.”
The ex-Amazon CEO’s brother, Mark Bezos, also accompanied him on Blue Origin’s spaceship, dubbed the New Shepard spacecraft.
The New Shepard spacecraft, which can’t be piloted from the inside, was named after Alan Shepard, the first U.S. citizen to travel in space during a suborbital flight as part of NASA’s Mercury program in 1961.
Bezos said the architecture and technology for the flight was “overkill for a little tourism mission.”
“Big things start small,” he added.
Bezos and his crewmates engaged in a crash training course on Sunday in preparation for the flight, which included safety briefings, a simulation of the spaceflight, a review of the rocket and its operations, and instruction on how to float around the craft’s cabin after the capsule sheds Earth’s gravity.
The suborbital launch marked a crucial test for the New Shepard spacecraft, a 18.3 metre tall and fully autonomous rocket-and-capsule combo that could help the billionaire tap into the space tourism market.
The likely lucrative race to commercialize space has attracted the attention of other billionaires, including Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk.
Musk and SpaceX are promising to soar to even greater heights than Bezos and Branson, sending an all-civilian crew for a several-day orbital flight aboard its four-seat Crew Dragon capsule.
Bezos stepped down as Amazon’s CEO early July, handing over the reins to Andy Jassy, who ran Amazon’s cloud-computing business.
– With files from Reuters and the Associated Press