Blue Origin offers window into what a space vacation might look like, literally

The New Shepard capsule contains the 'largest windows ever in space' and room for six passengers to float around at the edge of space.

Blue Origin via AP
An illustration depicts the capsule that Blue Origin plans to use to take tourists into space.

Blue Origin, the private spaceflight company created by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has released photos of the interior of its New Shepard spacecraft, which Mr. Bezos hopes will bring tourists into space as early as 2018.

The New Shepard, named after the first American in space, Alan Shepard, has already been successfully launched and landed five times in uncrewed test flights. Blue Origin intends for the capsule to eventually be used to take passengers to the frontier of space, allowing them to experience weightlessness and enjoy the view of their home planet more than 100 kilometers (62 miles) below them.

“Every seat’s a window seat, the largest windows ever in space,” Bezos wrote in an email update about the spacecraft, according to The Verge.

The new images reveal a sleek, futuristic 530-cubic-foot interior with six seats. In the center of the cabin is a capsule that houses an escape motor designed to kick in in the event of an emergency at launch, pushing the passengers away from an exploding booster engine.

“Our New Shepard flight test program is focused on demonstrating the performance and robustness of the system,” Bezos said in the email release. “In parallel, we’ve been designing the capsule interior with an eye toward precision engineering, safety, and comfort.”

The new photos are a tantalizing glimpse at the futuristic world of commercial space travel, often touted by companies like Blue Origin and SpaceX as inevitable. But while space tourism has captured the public imagination since before the first manned rockets took off from Earth’s surface in the 20th century, that future has faced delays recently, despite assurances that regular space tourism is not far off. As The Christian Science Monitor’s Eva Botkin-Kowacki reported in February:

Two private citizens have booked a trip around the moon scheduled for 2018, according to a SpaceX announcement Monday afternoon. 

Yes, you read that right. The commercial spaceflight company that has yet to fly any crewed missions into space plans to send two non-astronauts beyond Earth's orbit next year. Is that really possible?

"My guess is that 2020 is more realistic," Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, says in a phone interview with The Christian Science Monitor....

This criticism came after one of SpaceX's semi-reusable rockets exploded during a routine test. [Scott Pace, a former NASA official and director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University] expressed concern that people working for the company might be run ragged by the demands, leading to human errors.

That's a significant concern when talking about sending millions of dollars of equipment up to the International Space Station, but the stakes become much higher with humans, especially non-astronaut humans, on board.

But despite delays and the necessity for further safety testing, both SpaceX and Blue Origin have been moving forward with their ambitious space tourism projects. The latter has already announced plans for the next generation of spacecraft after New Shepard: New Glenn, which the company is already considering selling tickets for, despite the design still being in development.

Blue Origin is also focusing on another money-maker, ferrying satellites into orbit for commercial companies, a common strategy for corporate entities breaking into private space flight. Blue Origin was recently contracted by French telecom firm Eutelsat to send a communications satellite into orbit on its New Glenn rocket, scheduled for completion in 2020. But until then, Blue Origin continues to paint a dramatic picture of what that future commercial trip into space could look like, distant or not:

“Sitting atop a 60-foot-tall rocket in a capsule designed for six people, you’ll feel the engine ignite and rumble under you as you climb through the atmosphere,” proclaims the company’s official site. “Accelerating at more than 3 Gs to faster than Mach 3, you will count yourself as one of the few who have gone these speeds and crossed into space.”

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.