I wasn’t even expecting him to say that he was going to be on the first flight and then when he asked me to go along, i was just awestruck. You see the earth from space, it changes you. It changes your relationship with this planet with humanity, it’s one earth, jeff bezos and his brother are headed to the edge of space on tuesday aboard the blue origin, spaceship new shepard. It comes just nine days after fellow billionaire richard branson completed his space flight. Launching a new era of space tourism, our transportation, correspondent, gio benitez, has been tracking it all and he joins us now good morning, geo, hey martha good morning. This will be the first time that any human flies aboard the blue origin, new shepard and no pilot will be on board and we have lisa the billionaire space race is now truly underway. Last week it was richard branson. This week, it’s amazon, founder jeff bezos launching into space aboard his spaceship. The new shepard go new shepard go also launching to the edge of the atmosphere, his brother mark 82 year old, wally funk, who will become the oldest person in space and now 18 year old, oliver damon, who will become the youngest sharing. His excitement in this video posted on twitter – i am super – excited to go to space and joining them on flight. I’Ve been dreaming about this all my life, the 11 minute flight aboard the completely autonomous spaceship, will give them just three minutes of weightlessness at the edge of space 62 miles from the earth’s surface.

The new shepherd sits above the rocket that launches the passengers up to space different than what we saw last week with virgin galactic spaceship fire fire which drops from a mother ship fifty thousand feet in the air and pilots help it finish its journey to space virgin Galactic has already sold 700 seats at a whopping 250 thousand dollars each branson telling me after his flight. He hopes this will eventually open space up to all so jeff bezos intends to go a little bit farther than branson did 62 miles above the surface. Instead of 53 – and we will be right there at that remote desert site in van horn texas – to cover this launch for you on tuesday martha, we will all be watching gio benitez thanks very much for that for more on the blue origin, launch let’s bring in Former nasa astronaut and mechanical engineering, professor at columbia university mike massimino, it’s great, to see you this morning mike this will be the first ever manned crew launch for blue origin. You have actually been inside blue origin, you’re right, very nice windows, but unlike virgin galactic space plane, blue origin uses an automated reusable rocket with no pilot on board. So the launch will look very different than branson’s right, uh, martha, absolutely, and thanks very much for having me it’s great uh, great to be here with you this morning, um yeah much much different than what we saw last week, it’s more of a traditional rocket launch.

But it’s fully automated, so the the the astronaut passengers get inside there’s no pilot on board uh. They they launch automatically it separates, brings them into space. It lands with a parachute, the rocket itself, the the uh. The rocket stage will come back and land just a couple miles away from where they launched and then the the people who have experienced space flight. The astronauts will then land close by as well within a parachute inside of the capsule. So much different. I think it’s a very safe it’s, been tested 15 times and has a great escape system and all that works. As you said, all that works automatically. You know the ride for branson and bezos is is no doubt thrilling, but i got ta ask for an astronaut like you, who has spent more than 260 hours in space, helping to upgrade a powerful telescope what’s. The overall importance of these very brief rides to the edge of space. Well, i think, in this case, with blue origin it’s, really us taking steps to open up space more and more and go further and further and explore and do some really exciting things, particularly with a private company like blue origin. As i said, they had 15 successful flights so far, including one that included an experiment, a biomedical payload that some of my students at columbia got to fly into space, and so i think, it’s going to be more research, more people going up in these suborbital flights, Which will be a very exciting but it’s only the first step, i think, for what they want to do.

They have another spaceship coming online new glenn, which is a more powerful rocket that can go into orbit and beyond, and they’re also interested in being able to develop a lander for for moon operations to go, go to the moon. So i think what we’re seeing here is really just the beginning of what i think will be uh years of a very exciting program, and in mike you mentioned, the moon. You’Ve got elon musk who wants to go to mars if they succeed? What are the long term benefits to humanity? Um? I think that uh, one thing that i think is here with with these companies now being involved that nasa has wanted to do for decades. Really, since its inception is be able to turn over some of what they’ve done in space to private enterprise so that it could help our economy provide economic benefits. So now i think we’re seeing some of that and as the access to space increases. Just like my students, when i was a student there’d, be absolutely no way even just a few years ago for students to be able to fly something and experiment in space. And now they can, as the access to space becomes more prevalent, people can envision themselves going or what research they might do or what products they might develop or what what they want to accomplish in space because now it’s possible. So i think it’s going to let people be creative to come up with things we can’t.

Even imagine that can be done in space travel and i think overall, what what i think the space program has been about is looking at things from a different perspective. We’Ve learned a lot about our planet. We have so much more to learn. We have so many important things to take care of here on our planet, but by going to space, looking back trying to understand that environment, we answer some big questions that i think can only be answered by looking back at our planet and exploring in space. What we can do in zero gravity, what we can learn about our planet where we came from what else is out there? I think that requires us leaving and i think, that’s what this is in a big picture. What this is all about, thanks so much mike. I always love your perspective. We’Ll all be watching. We’Ll have live coverage of the blue origin space launch tuesday morning right here on abc hi.