Why Jeff Bezos is finally ready to talk about taking people to space

Why Jeff Bezos is finally ready to talk about taking people to space

KENT, Washington—The company has been secretive so long that even the spokesperson who greeted the media for a tour here Tuesday said, “You’re not dreaming… you are really at the Blue Origin headquarters.”

On a tour of the facility, Jeff Bezos, who founded the company in 2000, and who talks about the day “when millions of people are living and working in space,” showed off the expansive manufacturing site—and the space collection he has amassed over the years.

The lobby has a model of the Star Trek Enterprise that was used in the original motion picture. There is a Russian space suit on display and a proposed space station that was never built. Quotes, including one by Leonardo da Vinci, line the walls.

But the entrance is not the main attraction. As he approached the factory floor, where the company builds its New Shepard vehicle and rocket engines, Bezos said, “here’s where the magic happens.” (Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

After some recent test flights that successfully flew to the edge of space, and then landed, Bezos said the company may be ready to fly passengers in 2018 if everything goes according to plan. It is aiming to begin test flights with humans next year.

Since the vehicle would fly autonomously, the test pilots would really be more like test passengers, there to pay attention to the customer experience, he said. Is the flight too noisy? Is it comfortable? Then, once the company is confident in the safety and reliability of the pilotless vehicle, paying passengers—Bezos did not reveal a price— could climb aboard to fly just past the boundary of space, see the curvature of the Earth through large windows, and then unbuckle from their seats to experience a few minutes of weightlessness.

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