Jeff Bezos to Donate Heinlein Prize Winnings to Student Group

Blue Origin Team celebration
Jeff Bezos, center, celebrates New Shepard's Nov. 23 test flight with the Blue Origin team. (Image credit: Blue Origin)

WASHINGTON – Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos said he would donate his $250,000 winnings from the Heinlein Prize for commercial space achievements to the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space.

While Bezos had been announced as the third winner of the prize in June, he was formally given the award, established in the name of the late science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein, at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum Sept. 14. Bezos was recognized for developing launch vehicles and rocket engines that could lead to greater reusability in space transportation. In a short speech and subsequent question-and-answer session, Bezos said he would donate the money to the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space.

SEDS is a non-profit organization aims to help young people participate in space exploration efforts. Bezos, who was an early member of the Princeton chapter of the group in the early 1980s, said he hoped the organization "would continue to do great work."

One of SEDS' founders, Peter Diamandis, won the inaugural Heinlein Prize in 2006 for his efforts in establishing the X Prize, which is aimed at stimulating the development of the commercial suborbital reusable launch vehicle.

"Books have always meant a lot to me, but not as much as they meant to you," Diamonds joked with Bezos, the founder of who is now thought to be worth more than $60 billion.

Bezos is the founder of commercial space company Blue Origin, which is testing its New Shepard reusable suborbital vehicle and is developing its BE-3 and BE-4 rocket engines. He announced Sept. 1 that the Kent, Washington company also is developing a family of orbital rockets it's calling New Glenn.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk also won the award in 2011 for his development of the now-retired Falcon 1.

When asked about a perceived competition with Blue Origin and SpaceX, Bezos said, "Great industries are never made from single companies. There is room in space for a lot of winners."

This story was provided by SpaceNews, dedicated to covering all aspects of the space industry.

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Editor-in-Chief, Sightline Media

Mike Gruss is a veteran defense reporter and Editor-in-Chief of Sightline Media Group, which includes Army Times, Air Force Times, Dense News, Military Times and Navy Times. From 2013 to 2016, Mike served as a Senior Staff Writer for SpaceNews covering national security space programs and military space policy in the U.S. Congress. Mike earned a bachelor's degree in English and American Studies from Miami University and has previously wrote for the Journal Gazette in Fort Wayne, Indiana and the Virginian-Pilot in Virginia before joining SpaceNews. Prior to joining Sightline in 2017, he was a senior editor of FedTech magazine covering technology in federal government. You can see Mike's latest project on Twitter.