Blue Origin donates $19 million to space nonprofits ahead of Jeff Bezos' launch

Blue Origin's New Shepard Spacecraft First Step launches on a suborbital spaceflight from West Texas on April 14, 2021.
Blue Origin's New Shepard Spacecraft First Step launches on a suborbital spaceflight from West Texas on April 14, 2021. (Image credit: Blue Origin)

Blue Origin raised some serious cash for space nonprofits from its recent auction of a trip to space with company founder Jeff Bezos.

Last month, the company auctioned off a seat on the first crewed flight of its New Shepard suborbital vehicle, which is scheduled to lift off from West Texas on July 20. Bezos himself will be on the flight, which is doubtless a big reason why the seat sold for such an astronomical price — $28 million.

That money went to Blue Origin's nonprofit organization Club for the Future, which is now disbursing a large chunk of it. Nineteen space nonprofits have each been awarded $1 million to help them with their work, Blue Origin announced today (July 14).

Related: How to watch Blue Origin launch Jeff Bezos into space July 20
More: How Blue Origin's New Shepard suborbital vehicle works (infographic)

"Each of the organizations selected [has] demonstrated a commitment to promote the future of living and working in space to inspire the next generation to explore space careers," Blue Origin representatives wrote in a statement. "They enhance Club for the Future's ability to reach students, teachers, and communities, and to engage them in the excitement and adventure of innovation and space exploration."

The 19 organizations are AstraFemina, the AIAA Foundation, the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, the Brooke Owens Fellowship, the Challenger Center, Higher Orbits, the International Astronautical Federation, the National Space Society, SciArt Exchange, Space Camp, Space Center Houston, the Space For Art Foundation, Space For Humanity, the Space Generation Advisory Council, Students for the Exploration and Development of Space, Teachers in Space, The Mars Society, The Planetary Society and The Space Frontier Foundation. You can read a brief description of the goals of each group in the Blue Origin statement.

Blue Origin plans to use the rest of the auction money to fund Club for the Future's curriculum and its Postcards to Space program, which has sent tens of thousands of kids' postcards to suborbital space on uncrewed New Shepard flights, company representatives said. The company founded the Club for the Future in 2019.

The New Shepard launch on July 20 will carry Bezos, his brother Mark, pioneering aviator Wally Funk and the auction winner, who still has not been identified, to space. The flight will come nine days after Blue Origin's chief rival in the suborbital space tourism business, Virgin Galactic, completed a landmark mission of its own — the first fully crewed spaceflight of its VSS Unity space plane. Billionaire Virgin Group founder Richard Branson was on that flight.

Also on Wednesday, it was announced that Bezos is personally giving $200 million to the Smithsonian Institution— the largest single donation to the huge museum, education and research complex since James Smithson's "founding gift" in 1846. Seventy million will go toward renovating the National Air and Space Museum, and $130 million will support a new education center, Smithsonian representatives said.

"The Smithsonian plays a vital role in igniting the imaginations of our future builders and dreamers," Bezos said in a statement. "Every child is born with great potential, and it's inspiration that unlocks that potential. My love affair with science, invention and space did that for me, and I hope this gift does that for others."

Mike Wall is the author of "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook. 

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.