Blue Origin, the private space travel company founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, is planning to take its first paying passengers into space as soon as 2018. Bezos told journalists visiting Blue Origin's Washington state headquarters that groups of up to six tourists at a time might be able to make short trips that would allow them to experience weightlessness in two years time, depending on how rocket tests go in the interim.
Those rich enough to pay for private travel won't be the first humans carried into space by Bezos' rockets, though — the Guardian reports that the company's first piloted test flights will begin in 2017. Tests are set to begin on the company's new engine, named BE-4, before the end of this year. In the meantime, Blue Origin has yet to start accepting deposits, but Bezos says thousands have already expressed their interest in paying for a ride into the outer reaches of our atmosphere.
Blue Origin has already landed and relaunched one of its ships
This is the first time since its foundation in 2000 that Bezos has opened the doors of his space travel company's headquarters, but the Amazon CEO said that this would mark the beginning of a more open approach by Blue Origin. "We will not be strangers," he told attending journalists. Blue Origin has taken a backseat to competitor SpaceX in the public eye, but Bezos's company scored a point over its rival late last year, successfully landing and then relaunching a rocket into space. SpaceX has attempted the same feat with its Falcon 9 rocket several times, but has only stuck the landing once, and is yet to send the same ship off our planet twice.
The two CEOs aren't averse to publicity, and both have sparred on Twitter over the other's claims. Bezos appeared to continue this rivalry during the guided tour of Blue Origin's facility, taking a small swipe at the flashy SpaceX. "Space is really easy to overhype," he said.