Jeff Bezos travels from selling books to Space and everything beyond

M Somasekhar

Hyderabad: From selling books online at attractive prices on Amazon Inc to auctioning tickets to space at ‘sky rocket’ prices through Blue Origin, the journey of Jeff Bezos is all set to turn into another ‘Dream come true’ reality in the next 24 hours.

On July 20, the American billionaire and founder of the iconic company-Amazon, Jeff Bezos could fly into space history in many ways.

With him onboard the spacecraft named ‘New Shepard’ will be 3 crewmates—his brother Mark, the youngest to go to space, the 18 year old Oliver Daemon, the Dutch and the oldest, 82 year old, Wally Funk, a trained woman astronaut, will fly beyond the Karman Line, approximately 100 km above the Earth. They will view the spectacle of the blue planet and return to the spaceport in Texas.

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The first unpiloted flight, which will be all of 15 to 20 minutes, is expected to give a fillip to commercial Space tourism in the future. Richard Branson, the British-born billionaire and owner of Virgin Galactic, has already flown to the edge of space at 88 km on July 11, starting off the space race among big private players.

To realise his space dream the 57-year-old Bezos stepped down from Amazon in July and took charge of the Aerospace company called Blue Origin, which he started around 2000.

Amazon began its journey in 1994 as a competitor to the famous American bookseller Barnes and Noble. It has rapidly grown into a

$ 386 b sales company in 2020. Bezos personal net worth grew to $200 billion in August 2020 as per the Forbes wealth Index.

July 20, Moon Landing and US

The reason behind Bezos choosing July 20 in a way is to coincide with the realisation of the great American dream of landing on the Moon in the 1960s.

In April 1961, Yuri Gagarin and the erstwhile Soviet Union had surprised the US by beating them in the race to send a human to space first. The American Astronaut Shepard succeeded in May, about three weeks later. In a way, tomorrow’s flight will be marking the 50th year of the first human in space.

The then US President, John F Kennedy announced that by the end of that decade an American should land on the moon. It did happen in 1969. Neil Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the Moon. The Apollo 11 mission of the United States with Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins landed on the lunar surface.

Exactly 52 years later, on the same date, Jeff Bezos is pursuing another American dream of pioneering space tourism in the long run.

Though, in some strange coincidence, British-born Billionaire, Richard Branson, flew to the edge of space just 9 days earlier to claim the first spot.

There is some controversy whether Branson’s flight is really into space or not as some consider the Karman Line as the boundary. However, the Branson team reported experiencing weightlessness and the space thrill.

The maiden trip of New Shepard spacecraft–an autonomous aircraft that will be launched from the company’s Launch Site will also be the world’s first unpiloted flight to space with an all-civilian crew. There will be no trained astronauts navigating the spacecraft as it lifts off from Texas, the company said.

The spacecraft, a reusable rocket, is designed to take off and land vertically like SpaceX Falcon-9 rockets. Interestingly, Space X is owned by the third billionaire with ambitions in space, Elon Musk of Tesla. His company has achieved great strides in space technology. It has already won multi-billion dollar contracts with Nasa to transport cargo and astronauts to the International Space Station(ISS).

Indian connection to Bezos flight

If Sirisha Bandla, the Guntur, Andhra Pradesh born, American flew with Richard Branson on the SS Unity flight of Virgin Galactic Company, Sanjal Gavande, from Maharashtra is part of the ground team of Jeff Bezos, Blue Origin Company.

She is among the engineers who built the space company’s suborbital space rocket New Shepard. A systems engineer, Sanjal Gavande was born in Kalyan, on the outskirts of Mumbai and always wanted to build a spaceship, she has been quoted in the media.

A Mechanical Engineering from the University of Mumbai, Sanjal Gavande left for the US to pursue a master’s at Michigan Technological University. Interestingly, several Indians are working in American space enterprises, especially the biggest, government owned NASA.

Another interesting aspect is that for Amazon, India is the fastest growing market. It’s presence has been growing exponentially, with Hyderabad housing some of thelargest facilities and operations.

Somasekhar Mulugu, former Associate Editor & Chief of Bureau of The Hindu BusinessLine, is a well-known political, business and science writer and analyst based in Hyderabad

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