Jeff Bezos Says He Is Selling $1 Billion a Year in Amazon Stock to Finance the Race to Space

Standing against the backdrop of his New Shepard rocket booster and a full-scale mock capsule for carrying humans into space, Jeff Bezos revealed on Wednesday that he was selling about $1 billion in Amazon stock a year to finance his Blue Origin rocket company.
Mr. Bezos, the billionaire founder of Amazon, showed off the reusable rocket booster and the mock-up of the capsule that will take people up for panoramic views back down at earth, during a symposium here.
Mr. Bezos, who hopes to build Blue Origin into a commercial and tourist venture, also disclosed that it would cost about $2.5 billion to develop an even bigger rocket, New Glenn, capable of lifting satellites and, eventually, people into orbit.
Like his fellow technology titan Elon Musk of SpaceX and Tesla, Mr. Bezos has identified reusable rocket parts as a key to lowering the price of admission to the field, which he said on Wednesday would lead to a “golden age of space exploration.”
“If we can make access to space low-cost, then entrepreneurs will be unleashed,” he said. “You will see creativity, you will see dynamism, you will see the same thing in space that I’ve witnessed on the internet in the last 20 years.”
Last month, Mr. Bezos announced the first-paying customer, Eutelstat, a satellite company, for New Glenn, whose commercial flights would help offset costs. New Glenn is expected to fly by 2020, he said, but humans will not be passengers on the heavy-lift rocket until many years after that.
Mr. Bezos has repeatedly expressed caution about setting timetables for the start of Blue Origin’s commercial or passenger trips, and he did not diverge from that on Wednesday. He would not say when New Shepard would undergo its next round of test flights, or set a specific date as a goal, merely mentioning next year for possible tourist trips.
“It’s a mistake to race to a deadline when you’re talking about a flying vehicle, especially one that you’re going to put people on,” he said. “I still think we can do commercial paying passengers in 2018.”
Asked how much passengers would pay, Mr. Bezos said he did not know yet, but he predicted ticket prices would decline as spaceflight became more common. (Hundreds of people have already put down deposits to reserve places on similar commercial trips on Virgin Galactic that could cost $250,000 a ticket, although that company’s spaceplane has yet to take anyone up.)
New Shepard is a modest start for Mr. Bezos’s ambitions to tap into the nascent space tourism market. It is a single-stage booster with a capsule on top that is designed to carry six passengers at a time on trips of about 10 to 11 minutes.
There will not be a Blue Origin crew on the spacecraft. Passengers wearing sleek jumpsuits will be able to peer out what the company says will be the largest windows in space, taking up about one-third of the surface area of the dome.
About 12 feet in diameter, the passenger capsule holds six black seats that resemble recliners, with panels offering details about altitude and other features of a trip.
The engine that powers the booster produces up to about 110,000 pounds of thrust.
On ascent, passengers will experience forces of about 3 Gs, about three times the normal force of gravity that humans experience on earth. When the booster reaches a certain altitude, the capsule will detach and coast above the Karman line, which is 62 miles above sea level, officially entering into space.
There, the passengers will experience about four to five minutes of weightlessness. They can unbuckle their harnesses and do somersaults, if desired, in the padded-dome interior.
On descent, they will encounter forces of 5 Gs.
The capsule will parachute back to the plains of West Texas, slowing to a coasting speed of about 20 miles per hour, while the booster drops and fires its engine to slow down and make a vertical landing. The capsule slows to 3 m.p.h. before touching down. Both pieces are reusable to make the trips more economical.