VAN HORN, Texas – Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) CEO Jeff Bezos announced Tuesday that his secretive Blue Origin space travel firm launched Monday ‘The New Shepard’.
The reusable rocket that traveled 62 miles up into space and landed vertically just four and a half feet from its launch pad’s center.
This achievement means that Bezo has beaten Elon Musk’s SpaceX, his main competitor, who has failed three times in landing a reusable rocket vertically after having been to space. Both space pioneers focused on developing reusable rockets in order to reduce the cost of space travel.
“Here in mission control in West Texas, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house,” Bezos expressed in a media conference call on Tuesday. “It was one of the greatest moments of my life.”
The New Shepard rocket was named after Alan Shepard, the first American in space. It succeeded at delivering an empty crew capsule into space. The capsule also had a controlled landing thanks to a parachutes. Until now, space rockets have only been usable for a single time and then let fall into the ocean.
Bezos described in the conference call the ability to land a rocket so it could be reused in order to lower the cost of launching vehicles into space, saying it was “the Holy Grail of rocketry”. In April, Blue Origin attempted its first flight but failed due to a malfunction of the hydraulic system.
On the other hand, Musk’s SpaceX company has won contracts from NASA and commercial customers to carry payloads and people into orbit, whereas New Shepard rocket was created only to carry space tourists for short flights. However, SpaceX has not yet succeeded at safely landing a rocket so it can be reused. Its third attempt took place in June, when an unmanned rocket exploded on its way to space.
Musk congratulated Bezos on Twitter before briefly explaining why SpaceX had more ambitious plans by using a much more complex engineering. He also pointed out that SpaceX had already landed successfully its Grasshopper prototype several times over the past few years, but did not mention that it had not reached space as New Shepard did on Monday.
The competition aims to develop low-cost rockets so space travel can be affordable not only to tourists, but also to researchers and other companies for the first time. Reuse is a key, since throwing away expensive equipment after each trip clearly increases the cost, which SpaceX pretends to bring closer to $6 million per launch.
Source: CNN Money