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Jeff Bezos says spaceflight reinforced his commitment to solving climate change

NBC News
July 20, 2021 -

Jeff Bezos flew to the edge of space and said he came back a changed man.

The billionaire founder of Amazon earned his astronaut wings Tuesday after launching aboard a rocket and capsule developed by Blue Origin, his private spaceflight company. The historic launch was the first unpiloted suborbital flight with all civilian passengers, and the first crewed flight of Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket.

But it was also the culmination of a lifelong dream for Bezos.

"It's amazing. There are no words," he told NBC's Stephanie Ruhle in his first post-launch interview. "I'm not talented enough to put this into words."

The entrepreneur spoke about how seeing Earth from suborbital space changed his perspective.

"When you look at the planet, there are no borders," Bezos said. "It’s one planet, and we share it and it's fragile."

He added that the journey reinforced his commitment to solving climate change, saying that investing in space technologies could help future generations.

"We have to build a road to space so that our kids and their kids can build a future," Bezos said. "We live on this beautiful planet. You can’t imagine how thin the atmosphere is when you see it from space."

In particular, he stressed the need for reusable rockets for space launches and added that polluting industries could be moved to space in order to preserve the environment on Earth.

"That's going to take decades and decades to achieve, but big things start with small steps," he said.

Bezos' flight was a suborbital jaunt, which means he and his fellow crew members didn’t actually enter into orbit around Earth. Rather, the capsule reached the edge of space, at an altitude of more than 65 miles, where the passengers experienced roughly four minutes of weightlessness.

Bezos flew alongside his brother, Mark, and 82-year-old Wally Funk, a pioneering former test pilot who underwent training in the 1960s to demonstrate that women could qualify for NASA's astronaut corps. Funk, whose launch was 60 years in the making, is now the oldest person to reach space. Dutch teenager Oliver Daemen, 18, rounded out the four-person crew and set his own milestone, becoming the youngest astronaut.

Bezos described the experience, recalling the feeling of being pushed back into his seat as the rocket accelerated off the launch pad and then suddenly floating during weightlessness.

Mark Bezos called the experience "a perfect flight" and called being in weightlessness "surprisingly natural."

Blue Origin is hoping to begin operational flights with paying customers in the near future. And while Bezos said he wants to launch other passengers first, the Amazon founder said he's enthusiastic to fly again.

"I do want to go again," he said. "It was so much fun, and meaningful too."

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