Bidding for the first journey on Blue Origin’s suborbital spaceship exceeds $2 million

New Shepard ascent
Blue Origin’s New Shepard spaceship ascends from its West Texas launch pad for a January test flight. (Blue Origin via YouTube)

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture has begun unsealing the bids for an open seat on its New Shepard suborbital spaceship, and the high bid hit the $2.4 million mark with more than three weeks to go in the online auction.

Blue Origin says the auction has drawn out more than 5,200 bidders from 136 countries — including yours truly, who most definitely does not have the high bid. Bidding started on May 5 and will conclude with a live auction on June 12. Proceeds from the sale will be donated to Blue Origin’s educational foundation, the Club for the Future.

The winner will fill one of the six seats on New Shepard’s first crewed flight to the edge of space from Blue Origin’s West Texas spaceport, currently scheduled for July 20, the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. The other seats will presumably be set aside for Blue Origin employees or VIPs.

Passengers on the autonomously controlled New Shepard craft would experience a minutes-long shot of weightlessness and an astronaut’s-eye view of the curving Earth beneath the black sky of space. At the end of the ride, New Shepard’s crew capsule would make a soft landing with the aid of a parachute and a retrorocket blast, while the booster would make a separate autonomous touchdown.

Blue Origin has been putting a series of reusable New Shepard spacecraft through uncrewed flight tests for six years, and after the last such test in April, Bezos declared that “it’s time” to put people on board.

When the high bid was made public for the first time today, the amount stood at $1.4 million, and it didn’t take long for the bids to click upward from there. There’s probably a premium for the first ride and the bragging rights that come with it. Nevertheless, a multimillion-dollar bid is likely to set a price point for suborbital space rides that’s significantly higher than previously expected.

Virgin Galactic has about 600 reservations for its SpaceShipTwo suborbital space plane that were sold for as much as $250,000, and says it plans to raise the price tag for future reservations. Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic both say their tour package would include the flight itself as well as a few days of pre-launch preparation.

It’s not yet clear whether Blue Origin will continue using the auction model to sell seats on its spaceship for future flights. But whatever the price turns out to be, it’s still likely to be much less than the price of a days-long orbital space trip. The ticket price being charged by SpaceX for trips on its Crew Dragon spaceship is said to amount to tens of millions of dollars.

Space Blue origin New shepard Space tourism