Blue Origin’s month-long auction for a trip to the edge of space with its billionaire founder Jeff Bezos ended on Saturday with a closing price of $28 million. The flight aboard New Shepard, slated for July 20th, will mark the company’s first mission flying humans, in which the winning bidder will bask in a few minutes of microgravity with Bezos, his brother Mark, and one other passenger before returning back to land.
The identity of the winner will be kept secret for a few weeks — “we need to complete some final paperwork with them,” says Blue Origin’s astronaut sales director Ariane Cornell during the live broadcast. The auction took place in a Boston, Massachusetts facility owned by RR Auction, the hosting company. Dozens of telephone operators were gathered in a room representing 20 bidders, who brought the starting price of $4.8 million to $28 million in under 10 minutes. The proceeds will go to Blue Origin’s nonprofit charity Club For The Future.
“The more you pay for it the more you enjoy it,” the auctioneer said at one point.
New Shepard is a 60-foot-tall reusable rocket designed to shoot a gumdrop-shaped capsule with seats for six roughly 62 miles above ground to the edge of space, a roughly 10-minute mission that gives passengers a sight-seeing experience in microgravity for about three minutes. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon who will step down as its CEO next month, announced last Monday he’ll be riding the same mission with his brother Mark to fulfill his lifelong dream.
The $28 million price tag for the suborbital trip is roughly half the price for a seat on an orbital mission. SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule, which has only flown government astronauts to the International Space Station, will launch its first private astronaut mission to orbit later this year, with four passengers spending roughly three days in orbit.
Blue Origin, which has test-flown the fully reusable New Shepard rocket 15 times since 2015, hasn’t set a price for its passenger seats — years of market research and price data from the month-long auction could inform its starting price point. Cornell said the company will reach out to “the most competitive bidders from today to offer them access.” The fourth and final passenger will be announced soon, she said, without indicating whether it’d be a Blue Origin employee, one of the competitive bidders, or someone else.