This has been a big couple of days for Amazon founder and space entrepreneur Jeff Bezos.
On Monday his secretive space travel company, Blue Origin, landed the world’s first reusable suborbital rocket amid a new sort of space race among three rich guys working to corner the market on private space travel.
Then on Tuesday he posted his first tweet — about that rocket landing.
“Jeff Bezos brags on rocket landing with mic drop first tweet,” Wired.com trumpeted.
Blue Origin made history with that rocket launch in a remote West Texas location. The rocket shot about 62 miles into space. Then 11 minutes later, it stuck a perfect upright landing just 4 1/2 feet from the center of its launch pad.
Blue Origin released a dramatic video of the launch on Tuesday.
In a teleconference call with reporters, Bezos said it was “the Holy Grail of rocketry” to be able to land a rocket so it can be used again.
“To get full re-use, to (be able to) refuel and fly again, to eventually get to something closer to aircraft-type operations, that has to be the vision,” Bezos said.
“I believe this is a new Golden Age of space exploration. The first Golden Age was the ’60s. We have been treading water for a long time ... I believe one day all rockets will have landing gear.”
In a blog post he further marveled at the historic first of the controlled return of a launched rocket. Space rockets, he wrote, are no longer expendable.
“Now safely tucked away at our launch site in West Texas is the rarest of beasts, a used rocket,” he wrote.
Two other rich guys are developing private space travel. All believe that being able to reuse a rocket will dramatically lower the cost of spaceflight for the average person.
All three companies have had setbacks, at times catastrophic, in this new space race.
Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic would carry its passengers into suborbital space in a vehicle that launches from an aircraft and lands like a plane on a runway.
Last fall the company’s first space plane disintegrated above Mojave, Calif., killing co-pilot Mike Alsbury. Branson recently told Mashable that “the last 12 months everyone’s worked incredibly hard. We’re very much back on track now.”
The new SpaceShipTwo, Branson said, should be ready for testing in February 2016. “We’ll be unveiling the new spaceship,” Branson said. “And then we go into flight tests.”
At this point, about 700 people have already signed up to take a flight with Virgin Galactic when it’s ready. The spacecraft is designed to carry six people at a time.
Like Bezos, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk is developing a space rocket. His Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, tried but failed in launching a rocket into outer space and having it land upright. Some flopped over during landing on an ocean platform, according to CNN.
SpaceX reportedly plans to try another launch as early as next month.
On Tuesday Musk seemed miffed that Bezos had beaten him to such a significant milestone. After a congratulatory tweet, Musk followed up with others that seemed to throw cold water on Bezos’s achievement.
On Tuesday, Bezos described how emotional the rocket launch was for everyone working on the project. His New Shepard rocket is named after Alan Shepard, the first American in space. An initial test flight in April had failed.
“Here in mission control in West Texas, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house,” Bezos told reporters Tuesday. “It was one of the greatest moments of my life.”
He’s been fairly secretive about his space company, but shared a few more details after Monday’s success.
According to The Seattle Times, Bezos said his company will take a human crew into space “when we’re ready and not before.
“We’re going to do many, many test flights before we’re ready to put humans on board. Hopefully a couple of years from now we’ll be putting humans on New Shepard and taking them into space.”