Imagine floating in a capsule over 300,000 feet above the surface, just on the brink of where Earth’s atmosphere meets outer space and gravity seems to vanish. You’d also better not be prone to motion sickness because there are no bathrooms or barf bags on this vomit comet.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos wants to blast you into space—but you’d better have a stomach of iron if you want to experience weightlessness. Bezos has jumped on the same rocketship as Virgin Galactic and SpaceX with his Blue Origin spaceflight company, which will launch passengers into space with the reusable suborbital vehicle New Shepard (named after Apollo astronaut Alan Shepard). While it’s a far-out idea for anyone who’s had enough of cruises and theme parks, what exactly is it supposed to be like?
You don’t just book a guided tour of the cosmos. This trip actually needs training, which may be minimal but necessary. Besides a Blue Origin ticket, which will probably go for the same quarter-million as comparable spaceflight programs, you’ll also need a round-trip ticket to Texas, where the facility is located. This mission requires a two-day training period. You’ll also meet the other “crewmembers” brave enough to defy gravity and an employee, aka “Crew Member 7,” who will be available for in-flight communication. Training will involve ways to achieve max comfort on the flight as well as etiquette for floating around.
"The system has been designed from the very beginning so that the training can be minimal," Bezos assured anyone who may think it means some sort of intensive space camp. "You have to know how to strap yourself in and a few other things. But it's not a significant amount of training."
Now for the surreal part. Inside New Shepard, which kind of looks like the elevator from The Hunger Games except with windows, you’ll be strapped in to a cushy leather seat that will recline to a 70-degree angles so you can have a panoramic view of space. Once you’re in the anti-gravity zone, you’ll be able to unbuckle and experience what it’s like not to weigh anything for several minutes. The reason for zero restrooms is that you only board about half an hour before takeoff. It’s almost pointless considering the entire trip takes less than an hour.
"Go to the bathroom in advance," advised Bezos. "The whole thing, from boarding until you're back on the ground, is probably 40 or 41 minutes. So you're going to be fine.”
So is this thing even safe? New Shepard is fully autonomous, so you won’t need a captain, but Bezos still insists on testing it out with human passengers until he is certain that there will be no desperate calls of “Houston, we have a problem.”