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Want to bid on Blue Origin's space tourist seat auction? Be sure to read the fine print

Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket launches the crew capsule RSS First Step on an uncrewed suborbital test flight from the company's Launch Site One in West Texas on April 14, 2021.
Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket launches the crew capsule RSS First Step on an uncrewed suborbital test flight from the company's Launch Site One in West Texas on April 14, 2021. (Image credit: Blue Origin)

Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin plans to auction off a seat for its debut crewed spaceflight on July 20, but you should read the conditions carefully before applying.

The company aims to launch its six-seat New Shepard suborbital vehicle on the 52nd anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 moon landing. New Shepard has already flown 15 times to date, but the July launch will be the first mission to carry people — and one of those passengers will be the auction winner.

Blue Origin made the auction announcement May 5 on the 60th anniversary of the first crewed American spaceflight, which sent NASA astronaut Alan Shepard to suborbital space. (New Shepard is named after Alan Shepard.)

Related: How Blue Origin's New Shepard vehicle works (infographic)

A glance at Blue Origin's terms and conditions document shows that getting a seat won't be as easy as securing a high bid. To start, there's a long list of "functional requirements" that aspiring astronauts must meet. 

Each crew member must be between 5 feet (60 centimeters) and 6 feet, 4 inches tall (193 cm) and weigh between 110 lbs. (50 kilograms) and 223 lbs. (101 kg). People must also be able to "dress themselves in a one-piece, zip-up flight suit" and climb the launch tower — about seven flights of stairs — in less than 90 seconds, the document states.

Other requirements include the ability to walk quickly across uneven surfaces; not being afraid of heights at the top of the launch tower; sitting strapped into a reclined seat for between 40 and 90 minutes; and fastening and unfastening a seat harness in less than 15 seconds. There also are protocols to prevent claustrophobia and to ensure that astronauts are prepared for the g-loads experienced during launch and landing.

All crew members also must be able to "hear and understand instructions in English," "see and respond to alert lights" at their seat and reliably follow them, Blue Origin says. By comparison, people flying to the International Space Station need to be familiar with English and the other functional language of the facility, Russian, including advanced fluency in at least one of those languages.

Eligibility requirements on New Shepard, a reusable rocket-capsule combo, are not necessarily limited to United States citizens, but any participants must be 18 years of age or at the age of majority in their country of residence, whichever is older. Astronauts also must have a passport so they can travel to the United States for the launch and, if necessary, get a visa that will allow them to remain there for the whole "astronaut experience," including the flight. (New Shepard launches from Blue Origin's West Texas facility.) You will also have to participate in a training period to be ready for spaceflight.

Another key item to consider is payment. After the astronauts are designated, Blue Origin said it will invoice the winning bidder a non-refundable winning bid amount, plus a buyer's premium of 6% (less any deposit that was paid during the auction).

"Upon receipt of the invoice, [the] winning bidder shall pay the winning bid amount and the buyer’s premium in full upon receipt of invoice, and in no case more than 10 days after receipt of invoice," Blue Origin's document states, adding that the buyer is responsible for any transmission or processing fees. 

Once the winning bidder signs an informed consent document, all of the winning bid amount will become non-refundable, Blue Origin said. Other necessary documentation to sign includes a nondisclosure agreement, waivers of claims and a launch services contract.

Full terms and conditions from Blue Origin are available here.

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Elizabeth Howell

Elizabeth Howell is a contributing writer for Space.com who is one of the few Canadian journalists to report regularly on space exploration. She is the author or co-author of several books on space exploration. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. from the University of North Dakota in Space Studies, and an M.Sc. from the same department. She also holds a bachelor of journalism degree from Carleton University in Canada, where she began her space-writing career in 2004. Besides writing, Elizabeth teaches communications at the university and community college level, and for government training schools. To see her latest projects, follow Elizabeth on Twitter at @howellspace.