Making top billionaires liberally loosening their purse strings during the month-long auction for a trip to the edge of space aboard New Shepard has ended at a whopping closing price of $28 million.
The tech billionaire Jeff Bezos' space company Blue Origin has marked a record by selling a single seat aboard the New Shepard crew capsule, dubbed the RSS First Step Crew Capsule. The seat went up for auction earlier this month, starting with a sealed bidding round that drew more than 5,200 bidders from 136 countries.
According to reports, initial bids for a 10-minute experience on the space tourism rocket, slated for launch on July 20 opened as high as $2.8 million. The month-long open-bidding phase for New Shepard's seat closed on June 10 and entered a live, online auction round on June 12.
The bid price soared from $4.8 million to $28 million in under ten minutes. The winner will be able to claim a seat on the flight with Bezos, his brother Mark, and one other passenger on the flight, which will mark the company's first mission flying humans.
The identity of the winner will be kept secret for a few weeks — “we need to complete some final paperwork with them,” Blue Origin's astronaut sales director Ariane Cornell was quoted as saying.
The auction took place in a Boston, Massachusetts facility owned by RR Auction, the hosting company. Dozens of telephone operators were gathered in a room representing 20 bidders, a report said.
The proceeds will go to Blue Origin's nonprofit charity Club For The Future. “The more you pay for it the more you enjoy it,” the auctioneer said at one point.
The five-story-tall New Shepard rocket is designed to launch a crew capsule with seats for six roughly 340,000 feet into the sky toward the edge of space. Paying tourists can experience a few minutes of weightlessness in microgravity and witness super high-altitude views of Earth.
The booster is topped by a gumdrop-shaped Crew Capsule with space for six passengers inside and large windows.
After reaching the Karman line, the internationally recognized boundary of Earth's outermost atmosphere, which is 100 km above sea level, the capsule will detach from the booster, allowing those inside to view the curvature of the earth and experience weightlessness.
The booster and capsule will then land separately, with the capsule landing in the west Texas desert with the help of parachutes. Blue Origin, which has test-flown the fully reusable New Shepard rocket 15 times since 2015, hasn't set a price for its passenger seats — years of market research and price data from the month-long auction could inform its starting price point.
Cornell earlier said the company will reach out to “the most competitive bidders from today to offer them access.” The fourth and final passenger will be announced soon, she said, without indicating whether it'd be a Blue Origin employee, one of the competitive bidders, or someone else, the report said.