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Bezos' Blue Origin launches human flight: 18-year-old Oliver Daemen becomes first space tourist
Jeff Bezos, Mark, Wally Funk and Oliver Daemen on board Blue Origin capsule unbuckled their harnesses and experienced weightlessness as they reached space, on Tuesday morning. They also had "life-changing views" of Earth from above the Kármán Line before descending on to West Texas desert from where they had lifted off 10 minutes earlier.

VAN HORN (West Texas), July 20: Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' space company Blue Origin successfully launched the first-ever commercial human flight into space on Tuesday. The New Shepard rocket carried a capsule in its first crewed spaceflight with Bezos, his brother Mark, 82-year old woman aviator Wally Funk and a teenager paid tourist, Oliver Daemen. Oliver Daemen and Wally Funk represent the youngest and oldest astronauts to travel to space.

After the mission control confirmed separation of the capsule from the booster, Jeff, Mark, Wally and Oliver unbuckled their harnesses and experienced weightlessness. When the capsule reached apogee, the crew began experiencing "life-changing views" of Earth from above the Kármán Line. In the next stage, with three parachutes opened up, the capsule descended with the crew at a comfortable 16 mph / 26 km/h on their way to touchdown in the West Texas desert as planned.

Wally Funk, whom Bezos personally invited to join the 10-minute hop, is a Mercury aviator who was refused a chance by NASA all along since 1960's because of gender bias. She has become the oldest astronaut. Bezos told her: “No one has waited longer...It’s time. Welcome to the crew, Wally. We’re excited to have you fly with us on July 20th as our honored guest.”

Hailing from Texas, Wally has 19,600 flying hours and has taught more than 3,000 people to fly. Wally was the first female inspector for the US Federal Aviation Administration and the first female air safety investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board.

Dutch teenager, Oliver Daemen, 18, became the youngest to go to space and the first space tourist. He joined the team in place of the winner of the anonymous charity auction of the first seat, bidding $ 28 m, but opted for a future flight. And Bezos' brother Mark Bezos is a firefighter. Oliver's ticket cost is not known. According to Blue Origin, Oliver took a year off after high school to take pilot’s licence. "Welcome to the crew, Oliver! We’re grateful to have you as our first customer to mark the beginning of commercial operations," Blue Origin tweeted.

Watching Neil Armstrong land on the moon on July 20, 1969, had fired Bezos' inspiration and he set his blast-off on the 52nd anniversary of Apollo's great leap. This is just the beginning, he says, setting his eye on the moon.

Blue Origin had made 15 successful, uncrewed flights, with minor faults in one trip. The 16th blast-off was from west Texas desert launch site with no human habitations nearby. The nearest town is Van horn, 40 km away.

The Blue Origin venture comes as a booster for space tourism after Virgin Galactic's crewed launch on July 11. While Branson had two pilots and three space specialists, Bezos' craft was pilotless and fully autonomous. Branson's was a single use spaceplane, Bezos' New Shepard is reusable. Besides, Branson did not cross the Karman line. Bezos travelled to an altitude of 106 km.

Blue Origin was founded with the vision to enable a future where millions of people are living and working in space to benefit Earth.

A third billionaire is awaiting his turn, SpaceX's entrepreneur Elon Musk.

The tickets for future slots for a space tourism trip by Virgin Galactic are priced approximately at $250,000 for the public.

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