NEW YORK - Amazon's Blue Origin named its spacecraft New Shepard after the first American in space and opened five weeks of bidding for a seat aboard New Shepard's inaugural manned flight on the 60th anniversary of Alan Shepard's ride off this planet.
On Monday, we learned that when New Shepard launches this July with the auction-winner onboard, on the 52nd anniversary of the first moon landing, the second-richest man in the world and his brother plan to fly with them.
Malik reminded us Bezos wasn't the only rich guy funding his departure off this planet. Billionaire Sir Richard Branson says he hopes to be among the first passengers on Virgin Galactic's space tours, while a Japanese billionaire recently passed his medical exam to fly to the International Space Station in December. SpaceX founder and fellow billionaire Elon Musk has shared no plans to join his company's first private spaceflight at the end of the summer.
"That one [is] also financed by another billionaire, Jared Isaacman," Malik said.
For those wondering whether we ought to worry about the wealthiest humans bankrolling the future of space travel, Malik offered a history lesson: "You could say the same thing about the early aviation industry."
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And just as the cost of commercial aviation has grown accessible to the everyman, Malik expected the cost of spaceflight to also plummet, giving more humans views of the only place people have ever lived, from the stars.
"That overview effect is something that's changed many astronauts' lives," he said.
Malik hypothesized the more of us experience time off this planet the more investment we might make back on it.
"How we treat our planet, maybe what's important for us in terms of priorities and maybe what we value over what the latest deal is on Amazon," Malik said.
At last check, the high bid for a seat aboard New Shepard (and, now, an intimate trip to space with Jeff Bezos) had surpassed $3 million.
"It just kind of adds to the cachet for this flight," Malik said.