On Tuesday at 8:12 am CDT, a Blue Origin New Shepard spacecraft launched a space capsule, the R.S.S. First Step and its crew on a suborbital jaunt that mimicked the same type of flight made by American astronaut Alan Shepherd 60 years ago. Among that crew was company founder Jeff Bezos, taking his own small step 21 years after getting his space company started.
“I want to go on this flight because it’s a thing I’ve wanted to do all my life,” Bezos said in a video broadcast before the launch. He was joined by his brother, Mark, customer Oliver Daemon and 82 year-old aviation pioneer Wally Funk.
Since its founding in 2000, Bezos has held Blue Origin to himself. He’s put an estimated $7.5 billion of his own money into the company, and unlike rival billionaires Richard Branson or Elon Musk, has taken no venture funding or other investment.
Blue Origin’s space development has been slow and steady, which is a specific design philosophy: the company’s motto is “Gradatim ferociter,” which translates to “step-by-step ferociously,” and its mascot is a tortoise, whose plodding persistence won the race against a boastful hare in the famous Aesop’s fable. It flew its first test vehicle in 2005, and its first rocket in 2006. But it wasn’t until 2012 that it flew the first test of its New Shepard suborbital spaceflight system, which was a test of the company’s pad escape system.