Blue Origin's first spaceflyers launched to space and back today (July 20) and loved it so much that some are already planning their return trips.
This morning at 9:11 a.m. EDT (1311 GMT, 8:11 a.m. local time), Blue Origin's New Shepard vehicle launched its first crewed mission from the company's Launch Site One in West Texas. On board was company founder Jeff Bezos, his brother Mark, pioneering aviator Wally Funk and 18-year-old Oliver Daemen.
And, judging from what they had to say upon landing, the newly minted astronauts thoroughly enjoyed the trip.
"I loved every minute of it," Funk said in a post-launch news conference.
"Is it everything you thought it would be?"
Because of onboard microphones in the New Shepard capsule, we got a taste of the crew's experience before they even got home from their flight, which lasted a little over 10 minutes total.
While bits of audio were audible once they reached space — the flight traveled above the Kármán line, a boundary of space 62 miles (100 kilometers) above Earth's surface — the most obvious onboard sounds were joyous "woohoo!"s "oh wow"s and cries of "that's incredible" from the crew.
As the new astronauts floated without gravity, a male voice asked "Is it everything you thought it would be?" as Funk exclaimed "Fantastic!" and the crew looked out the window.
After landing back on planet Earth, however, the crew had many more thoughts to share, and didn't necessarily need many words to do so.
Jeff Bezos started his remarks by thanking the Blue Origin team, the town of Van Horn where the company built its West Texas launch site and both the workers and supporters of his company Amazon.
"This is a big team," Bezos said of the Blue Origin teams behind this mission. "They've been working at it for many years and they've done an extraordinary job."
When asked how his first flight to space felt? "Oh my god!" Bezos exclaimed. "My expectations were high and they were dramatically exceeded.
"Zero G may be one of the biggest surprises," he added about the flight, "because it's so normal. It felt almost like humans evolved to be in that environment, which I know is impossible, but it felt so serene and peaceful, the floating."
"The most profound piece of it for me was looking out at the Earth and looking at the Earth's atmosphere," he added. "That's a very profound thing to recognize that intellectually, it's another thing to actually see with your own eyes how fragile it [Earth's atmosphere] really is."
"Everybody who's been up in space, they say that it changes them," Bezos added about seeing Earth from space.
A jubilant Funk, who flew 60 years after she passed tests meant to determine fitness for flight only to see NASA decide to reject the idea of flying women as astronauts, let out a "Woo!" to the crowd at the news conference.
"We had a great time, it was wonderful," Funk said, "I want to go again, fast!"
"I loved every minute of it," she said. "I just wish it was longer ... there was not quite enough for for all for our us," to do rolls and twists.
Funk cemented her desire to return to space, declaring: "I loved it, I can hardly wait to go again."
According to Jeff Bezos, Funk not only beat the rest of the crew in climbing up the crew access tower to the spacecraft this morning, but she also "once again, in training, out-performed the men," Bezos said.
Daemen and Mark Bezos also shared their absolute joy at the experience.
"It was a bit more emotional than I would've thought," Daemen, a Dutch teenager who was the company's first paying passenger, said during the briefing.
"We are one of the first and let's hope that many, many more people join us, because this experience, we should share with more and more people," Daemen added.
"I was surprised," Mark Bezos said about his experience. "I mean they told us what g-forces would feel like on the way up ... it was incredibly exhilarating."
Mark Bezos added that his family has been "extremely supportive through all of this," with his brother Jeff jokingly referring to him as "the funniest person ever in space," (a statement Space.com cannot confirm).
Looking to the future
Today's flight, while exciting for Blue Origin, is just the start of such crewed suborbital flights.
Last week, on Sunday (July 11), Virgin Galactic also launched a crewed, suborbital flight. Their flight saw founder Richard Branson alongside mission specialists Sirisha Bandla, Colin Bennett and Beth Moses fly aboard the company's Unity spaceplane to 50 miles (80 kilometers) above Earth's surface and safely glide back to Earth.
Following the success of that mission and Blue Origin's mission today, we look to the future which includes more crewed suborbital flights, some of which are already planned.
"We're approaching $100 million in private sales already, and the demand is very, very high," Bezos said during the news conference.
However, while the company has two more crewed New Shepard flights planned for the remainder of this year and hopes that the vehicle could be reused for 25 or even as many as 100 flights, Bezos declined to comment on plans beyond this year.
"We really do want to practice with this vehicle, we're going to have to build more torque," Bezos said, "more boosters to fly more frequently, and we're going to be doing that and working on all the operational things we need to do ... what practice does is let you get better, and we want to be able to [do that] right now."
Email Chelsea Gohd at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.