Blue Origin is about to start selling seats on its New Shepard suborbital spacecraft.
"It's time. You can buy the very first seat on #NewShepard. Sign up to learn how at http://blueorigin.com. Details coming May 5th. #GradatimFerociter," the company, which is run by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, said via Twitter today (opens in new tab) (April 29). ("Gradatim Ferociter" is Blue Origin's motto. It means "step by step, ferociously.")
Blue Origin didn't just pluck May 5 out of the air. It's the 60th anniversary of the first crewed American spaceflight, which sent NASA astronaut Alan Shepard — after whom New Shepard is named — on a 15-minute suborbital jaunt.
Shepard didn't make the first-ever human spaceflight, of course. That distinction goes to cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, who launched on a mission to Earth orbit on April 12, 1961.
New Shepard is a reusable rocket-capsule duo that Blue Origin is developing to take people and scientific experiments to suborbital space. The six-passenger capsule has flown 15 uncrewed test missions to date, the most recent of which occurred on April 14. Blue Origin billed this month's flight as an "astronaut rehearsal mission," so today's news doesn't exactly come out of left field.
Blue Origin has not said how much a seat aboard New Shepard will cost; presumably, we'll find out on May 5. But for perspective: The most recent price for a seat aboard Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo, New Shepard's main competitor in the suborbital space tourism game, was $250,000.
Mike Wall is the author of "Out There (opens in new tab)" (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.