A dream 52 years in the making: Amazon founder ready to blast off into space



Jeff Bezos says his dream of travelling into space was born when, as a five year old, he watched Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walk on the moon in 1969.

Fifty-two years to the day, the Amazon founder and richest man on the planet will blast off in his own rocket to make that dream come true.

Mr Bezos will be joined by his brother Mark and the two people who will become the youngest and oldest to travel to space.

They will also be the first humans to lift off aboard the New Shepard rocket built by Mr Bezos's Blue Origin. There will be no crew on board as the launch is completely automated.

Mr Bezos will be joined by 82-year-old Wally Funk, who trained with NASA in the 1960s but was denied a space flight because women were not chosen for missions at the time.

Dutch student Oliver Daemen, 18, was announced as the fourth passenger last week after the anonymous bidder who paid $28m (£20.5m) for a seat withdrew because of a "scheduling conflict".

The four will experience a few minutes of weightlessness before the capsule returns to the Texas desert around 11 minutes after launch.

Mr Bezos of course will not be the first billionaire to make it in space, after being beaten to that by his rival Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic launch nine days ago.

But some, not least within Blue Origin, have questioned whether Sir Richard really did make it to space. He reached 53 miles above the surface of the earth, beyond NASA's recognised threshold of space. But Mr Bezos will go above the so-called Karman line of 62 miles above the surface of the earth, the internationally recognised limit of space.

Both men have insisted the race to prove that space tourism is viable is not personal contest.

"There was one person who was the first person in space, his name was Yuri Gagarin and that happened a long time ago," said Mr Bezos.

"This isn't a competition, this is about building a road to space so that future generations can do incredible things in space."

Image: The small town of Van Horn is suddenly the focus of the global space race

But he, Sir Richard and fellow billionaire space enthusiast Elon Musk have yet to demonstrate how the price of such flights will ever be within the grasp of those without money to burn.

The Blue Origin launch will take place in a remote stretch of desert bought by Mr Bezos for the purpose of space flight. The small town of Van Horn nearby is suddenly the focus of the global space spotlight.

Mr Bezos has long talked about building colonies for trillions of people in space or shifting pollutants to other planets and making earth residential-only.

His high school girlfriend once said that founding Amazon was only ever about funding his adventures in space, something he jokingly refused to confirm or deny.

That moment - 52 years in the making - is about to arrive.