Amazon founder Jeff Bezos said that even as a child he dreamed of going to space. Earlier this month the billionaire businessman achieved that lofty goal when he climbed aboard a rocket built by his spaceflight company Blue Origin and flew beyond the Kármán line, the boundary 62 miles above Earth that’s widely considered to mark the edge of space.
But 21 years ago when he told interviewer Charlie Rose that he’d like to “get in a rocket ship, go up into space, and go check out a few things,” many people in the audience simply laughed at the suggestion.
The exchange (below) took place six years after Bezos set up Amazon and a year after he first appeared on Forbes’ billionaires list with a registered net worth of $10 billion.
— Harsh Goenka (@hvgoenka) July 27, 2021
It was those megabucks that allowed the Amazon boss to set up Blue Origin, the company that many years later would help him fulfill his childhood dream. In fact, Bezos launched the spaceflight company a mere three months after the Rose interview took place. Perhaps it was those chuckling audience members that made him determined to have the last laugh.
Bezos acknowledged to Rose that a personal trip into space presented “a very hard technical problem,” to which the interviewer responded, “If you put your mind to it, you could probably figure out a way to do this.”
Incredibly, Bezos then throws out a date that makes you wonder if he already had a firm timeline in his head: “Who knows, 20 years from now, if there’s some significant changes in the technology, maybe such things will get easier,” he said, adding that in his opinion “we haven’t made significant improvements in space transportation systems really since the Apollo program.”
Blue Origin started testing its suborbital, single-stage New Shepard rocket in 2015. Six years later, after 15 successful test flights, the rocket carried its first human passengers to space, with Bezos among them. Riding alongside the Amazon boss was his brother Mark, aviation pioneer Wally Funk who at 82 became the oldest person to fly to space, and 18-year-old Dutch student Oliver Daemen who became the youngest person to achieve the same feat.
The 10-minute trip offered amazing views of Earth and a brief period of weightlessness where Bezos and his fellow passengers could leave their seats and float around the capsule.
Blue Origin is now making final preparations for the launch of a commercial space tourism service offering high-paying passengers the same experience. It’s not the only company looking to do this, with Virgin Galactic also planning to launch a similar service. SpaceX, meanwhile, is offering more complex orbital flights to civilians with stays in space lasting at least a few days.