back to article Blue Origin sets its price: $1.4m minimum for trip into space

If you want to spend a few minutes in free fall and get a view few others have seen in person, Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin space tourism venture has set its price for just such an experience – $1.4m (£1m) or best offer. Earlier this month Blue Origin announced it will auction off a seat on a July 20 trip beyond the Kármán line, …

  1. Mishak Silver badge

    "One wonders what good that money could do"

    Whilst I have some (limited) sympathy with that argument, it is probably worth remembering that aircraft started off as "toys" for the super-rich, who then put lots of money into their development.

    1. You aint sin me, roit

      Re: "One wonders what good that money could do"

      A million seems an obscene waste because it's just one person.

      Meanwhile each day millions of people "waste" 10, 30, maybe even 50 quid on funfare rides.

      Just think what we could do with all the cash if only people stopped spending it on enjoying themselves...

      It's not as if a million is a significant contribution to Blue Origins costs - it's just a drop in the ocean. Meanwhile (US) taxpayers hand over billions to Boeing.

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: "One wonders what good that money could do"

      Agreed. At this point in time, it may well seem to be a waste, but we should take into account the fact that, if we want space travel as a species, we want it safe, and to be safe we have to do a lot of it before making a shuttle ride the same thing as a bus ride.

      I am willing to let the 0,1% fund that out of their own pockets for a change, and be the guinea pigs.

      Have fun. I'll be watching the news when you go boom.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "One wonders what good that money could do"

        21st century titanic?

    3. John Robson Silver badge

      Re: "One wonders what good that money could do"

      "Whilst I have some (limited) sympathy with that argument, it is probably worth remembering that aircraft started off as "toys" for the super-rich, who then put lots of money into their development."

      And look at the damage they have done...

      1. Spherical Cow Silver badge

        Re: "One wonders what good that money could do"

        ... and the benefits they have brought.

        Is your main concern climate change? Yes? Good, it should be! Luckily, jet fuel is just kerosene of high purity, and it can easily be made from vegetable oil (at a slight increase in ticket price, which I am happy to pay).

        p.s. I wouldn't suggest biofuels for all vehicles because that would compete with land for food. Ships can use hydrogen, cars can use batteries, trucks can use either batteries or hydrogen, aeroplanes need very high energy density with low storage weight which means hydrocarbons which means biofuel.

        1. Wellyboot Silver badge

          Re: "One wonders what good that money could do"

          I'd go with fully synthetic* aviation fuel, the technology is sorted and only needs the production infrastructure building at a cost of a few billion.

          *from water & Carbon-dioxide

        2. John Robson Silver badge

          Re: "One wonders what good that money could do"

          I was thinking in terms of climate change, but particularly topical at the moment is the vast amount of (mostly pointless) rapid international travel they have enabled.

          The speed and spread of covid19 is in no small part due to the very rapid mixing of the travelling population, as large numbers of people moving to far flung places are crowded into spaces to transmit viruses between themselves, and then manage the same thing at the next airport (where some proportion of the travellers will be catching a connecting flight, so will mix with another batch of people going to far flung destinations). Many of them will then go on to

          There have been benefits, but the industry is still heavily subsidised by governments around the world (as a simple example there is no tax on aviation fuel, despite planes being substantially less efficient than most cars (assuming a 737 is full you get about 75mpg/person, but assume an ICE car is full and you easily get 200mpg/person).

          1. Martin Gregorie

            Re: "One wonders what good that money could do"

            despite planes being substantially less efficient than most cars

            An excellent point. Its also a factor that most people never realize the importance of whenever you're transporting people and their luggage. Then seat-miles per gallon is the only important number and the mpg value of the vehicle itself is pretty much irrelevant. I worked this out in the late 70s when planning an overland London-Kathmandu return trip and deciding what type of vehicle to use.

            For two people, the best answer was a Citroen 2CV van (30 mpg, so 60 seat/mpg), but there were four of us, so that was out. Next up was a VW Combi (21 mpg, 63 seat/mpg with three on board), which was OK with two or possibly three people, but add a 4th person plus gear and it was well known that its mpg fell off a cliff and it got slow, especially on hills. This was important too, because some parts of the London-Kathmandu run are quite high: 5,500ft in eastern Turkey, 7500ft on the southern rim of the Kathmandu valley.

            We ended up using a long wheelbase 4 cylinder petrol Series 2 Landrover, which never in its life exceeded 16 mpg (OK, 19 mpg after I fitted electronic ignition) but four up, it hit 64 seat/mpg almost regardless of the weight of camping gear we carried. That was better than any other vehicle we could afford.

            But put more people on a different vehicle and the numbers get even better: Encounter Overland ran essentially the same route driving big old RL Bedford trucks with 18 people on board and towing a steel ex-army trailer containing everybody's luggage. The truck normally did around 10 mpg, so call that 8 mpg with a trailer-full of luggage, but this still gives 144 seat/mpg - far beyond the economy anything smaller could manage despite its apparently dire mpg figure.

            1. John Robson Silver badge

              Re: "One wonders what good that money could do"

              There are two other effects worth noting.

              Pollution, particularly particulate pollution, is more costly in terms of health effects in cities.

              Various pollution released at high altitude has more of an effect on the climate than the same pollutants at lower altitude...

            2. Great Bu

              Re: "One wonders what good that money could do"

              But this manner of calculation assumes that individual's time has no value - you can make the trip on foot for infinity MPG if you like as long as you don't mind spending several years making it.....

              The poor seat/mpg figures for air travel are the price of getting to your destination in hours rather than days.

              Also, apparently no-one thought of train travel to make the sums better, if we are assuming time is no object, make as much of the journey as possible on a full train and the remainder by bus....

              1. John Robson Silver badge

                Re: "One wonders what good that money could do"

                Trains are far and away the most efficient, although it's somewhat challenging to build out the network...

                But I didn't choose the "best" to compare planes with, just one of the more common alternatives.

                Flying places that would take a very long time to drive - yes, the time is a saving, but at what cost to the world?

                But there are plenty of flights where you spend far longer in the airport than on the plane.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "One wonders what good that money could do"

            Covid is the gift that keeps on giving to governments who love debt, FUD and totalitarian control.

            Why would they stop that?

    4. NerryTutkins

      Re: "One wonders what good that money could do"

      The state sponsored manned missions have been in a rut for 30 years, sending people into space to just go round and round in circles doing "science", which is largely researching the effect of zero G on people, to help the next batch of people who will go round and round in circles researching the effects of zero G for the next batch, and so on. Most of the other experiments they do not involving people could easily be automated and sent to space for far less, if it was important.

      Meanwhile, we've seen amazing stuff done by unmanned probes. The mars rovers (especially the landings) and the helicopter and potential submarine missions to some solar system moons are far more interesting.

      If taking $1.4m from super-rich helps develop manned space travel without government money, and maybe one day get it to the point where the development can be fully justified by private enterprise, then I am all for it.

      I'd love to see people walk on Mars in my lifetime, or even a manned moonbase.... something that pushes things further. I was born as the last astronauts were walking on the moon in 72, and since then manned spaceflight has been endlessly disappointing to this kid who was promised we'd be going to the planets for our holidays.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: "One wonders what good that money could do"

        A waste in as much at all that money comes out of the pocket of a billionaire and goes into an organisation that is doing research and employing scientists, engineers and all manner of other staff?

        I see nothing wrong will Blue Origin turning billionaires upside down and shaking them a bit. A lot of Bezos' fortune, or what's flowing out of Amazon's "tax efficient" business model is also being pushed through this venture.

    5. Potemkine! Silver badge

      Re: "One wonders what good that money could do"

      aircraft started off as "toys" for the super-rich, who then put lots of money into their development.

      Not true.

      Aviation started with enthusiast engineers who wanted to fly. The industrial success of the first aircraft companies was because of the military use and was propelled by WW1.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      aircraft started off as "toys" for the super-rich

      Are you sure? Almost anyone could build one! :-)

      Flying Machines: Construction and Operation by Chanute, Jackman, and Russell

  2. Chris G

    I wonder what an individual's carbon footprint is for that three minutes in 'space'?

    1. Mishak Silver badge

      That depends on how the hydrogen for the main engines is produced; it has the potential to be quite low, but...

    2. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Some approximate numbers

      Blue do not publish many numbers but Redditers estimated 24000kg of propellant with a mixture ratio of 5.5:1. This works out as 3692kg of hydrogen. Getting that much hydrogen from steam reformation of methane produces about 20,000kg of CO2. There are other energy costs from liquifying the propellants, training and operating a launch and recovery. There would be a much bigger cost for building the rocket and capsule but both of those get divided by an unknown number because they are reused.

      An average American produces green house gasses equivalent to approximately 20,000kg of CO2 per year. New Shepard seats 6 (5 Tourists + 1 crew) so a ride to space is a bit more that 0.2 average American person years of CO2.

      1. Mishak Silver badge

        Average American person years of CO2

        Do we have a new Reg measure here (AAPYCO2) for units of produced CO2?

        1. Great Bu

          Re: Average American person years of CO2

          A better measure would be a fart based scale:

          One human fart is approximately 200ml, of which about 10% is methane.

          20ml of methane is about 0.00001314 kg of methane. 1 kg of methane is the equivalent of about 85kg CO2 so one fart is equivalent to approximately 0.001kg CO2 (1g).

          This means one Blue Origin launch is the climate equivalent of approximately 20,000,000 farts or, as we should more easily quote it, 20 MegaFarts (MF).

          I should point out, though, that these figures are approximations and averages. I, for example, did a flatus this morning which I estimate to have been around the 12kF scale on it's own - this estimate based on the fact that the dog got up and ran out into the garden when it went off.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Some approximate numbers

        According to "Elon Musk only has to sell 59 Teslas to offset the CO2 from a single SpaceX launch within a year" [ thenextweb ] a space X launch using 112, 000 liters of kerosene. (Note: I don't believe that a Telsa uses no fossil fuels and causes no CO2 production)

        According to "Estimating The Carbon Footprint Of Hydrogen Production" [Robert Rapier, Forbes] the production of hydrogen using stream reformation produces about 9.3 kg of CO2 per kg of H production, versus 9.1 kg of CO2 per kg of gasoline burned.

        "Hydrogen is an excellent energy carrier with respect to weight. 1 kg of hydrogen contains 33.33 kWh of usable energy, whereas petrol and diesel only hold about 12 kWh/kg" [ "Liquid Hydrogen Outline", idealhy ]

        Does it make sense that Blue uses ~3,700 kg of H while SpaceX uses (112,000 liters * 0.817 kilogram/liter) = 91,504 kg of kerosene?

        I honestly don't know the answer - I suppose Blue could be that much lighter and more efficient but it would not be my first guess.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yes... and no

    Whilst I agree that this is space tourism, plain and simple I do still feel there is scientific validity in some of what Virgin Galactic is (or was - I haven't checked lately) offering. One of their plans was to offer science flights where you will get 5 or 6 minutes of "high quality" weightlessness (*) with your experiment. I don't know if BO is planning on offering something similar though

    If you are a scientist and you actually get to sit next to your experiment and drive it for those 6 minutes there is a _lot_ that you can get done. And for the price of flying it to the ISS and training an astronaut to use it you could buy a huge number of 6 minute VG flights...

    Obviously difficult to decide if the zero-G research is useful to humanity as a whole (vs. the carbon, etc. costs of the flights) but I generally err on the side of "more research is good" and the carbon foot print of such flights is still probably tiny compared to launching stuff to the ISS.

    (*) I think the "vomit comet" flights are good for training and filming space movies but I don't think they provide a stable enough zero-g to compare with the ISS environment and they will always be susceptible to aerodynamic turbulence no matter how accurately they fly the parabola. Because VG and BO will basically get out the atmosphere for those few minutes they should be able to provide something much close to "true" zero-g.

    1. HCV

      " I do still feel there is scientific validity "

      "Are a fool and their money soon parted? In this experiment, we..."

  4. Howard Sway Silver badge

    Some alternative zero g experiences

    As this funfair ride will cost $77777.77/s I have tried to consider some alternatives.

    To match the total 180 seconds of weightlessness experienced during the flight, consider hiring a trampoline. If we assume approx 0.1 seconds of weightlessness per jump when you are at the top of the parabola of a trampoline jump, you will only need to jump up and down on it 1800 times to earn the same total amount of floaty feeling.

    And you can hire a trampoline for £150 a day. Bargain!

    1. Sandtitz Silver badge

      Re: Some alternative zero g experiences

      "And you can hire a trampoline for £150 a day. Bargain!"

      You can *buy* a trampoline for that amount.

      You can also not spend money on trampoline and just jump without accessories.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Some alternative zero g experiences

      Or just find an indoor skydiving centre near you and rent it for a few hours. (Or three minutes.)

      Get a friend to hold up a poster of the Earth if you want a more realistic experience.

      1. Spherical Cow Silver badge

        Re: Some alternative zero g experiences

        But when floating in an indoor skydiving thingy you experience 1g, not zero g. So that doesn't work.

  5. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    Returning to Earth?

    Current government policy suggests that they will need to self-isolate for 10 days and be tested twice, even if they were vaccinated prior to lift off.

  6. TheProf

    I'll Wait

    I want to orbit the Earth!

    Call me when you've got a bigger rocket. And some experience.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Prepare for the tidal wave...

    ...of hyper rich sublebrities burning vast amounts of carbon to jet to Texas, strap themselves into a toy racket and then consume further unimaginable amount of resources so they can make an Instagram post saying how imnportant is for all of us to look after a fragile planet (oh and buy whatever unnecessary stuff they hawk in glossy mags).

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "presumably that includes some folks who know how to operate the thing"

    I saw part of a TV documentary, and unless I misunderstood, the whole thing is 100% automated. All seats are passenger seats.

    It'll be interesting to see if Bezos himself takes one of the seats on the first ride; presumably the $1.4m+ price is for the off-chance of meeting him.

    For subsequent trips, I'd expect seats on this large fairground ride will become much cheaper. They're competing with Virgin Galactic at reportedly $200K, and once they get into routine operations, there's a lot of scope for the price to fall further.

  9. Wilco


    The first commercial transatlantic flight was in 1939, between New York and Marseilles. Tickets were $375 one way, which on a relative per capita GDP basis is equivalent to ~$35,000 now.

    Looking on Skyscanner, I can fly one way to New York from London in November this year for £116 / $162 (via Barcelona, but still a bargain).

    (Yes it's bad for the planet - but technology, plus some government intervention will fix this in the medium term)

    The point is that Bezos and Beardy and Musky are building an important element of the economy of the 2nd half of the 21st century, and complaints about the cost of a single flight, or the waste of resources, or even the environmental impact, are entirely beside the point. The money these new industries will generate is what is going to pay for the future.

  10. MonsieurTM

    What the back forgets is the "trickle down" economy. There are hundreds of engineers employed by these mega rich. There are even more cleaners, office staff etc. And of course they buy expensive materiel, which has its own economy. If they were not employed doing that what would they do? Obviously something else. But as imaginative? And just cranking up tax is not the solution. Governments are not always the best at the redistribution of wealth.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like