SAN DIEGO — The countdown is on: Tuesday morning, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and his team of three others are about to blast off to the edge of space.
The journey will be aboard the "New Shepard," a fully automated rocket designed by his company Blue Origin.
Bezos founded Blue Origin more than 20 years ago, dreaming of someday seeing Earth from space. And now, he is set to do exactly that.
"We have been training," Bezos said Monday morning. "The vehicle is ready, this crew is ready: this team is amazing. We just feel really good about it!"
Joining Jeff Bezos on Tuesday's fully-automated, pilot-less 11-minute flight out of the earth's atmosphere will be his brother Mark; veteran aviator Wally Funk, originally part of "Mercury 13" who at 82 would be the oldest person to travel into space; and 18-year-old Dutch high school graduate Oliver Daemen, who would be the youngest.
Jeff Bezos said this is the realization of a lifelong dream.
"He is going to excite an awful lot of people," said Jim Kidrick, president of the San Diego Air & Space Museum.
Kidrick interviewed Bezos in 2019, when Bezos was inducted into the museum's International Air & Space Hall of Fame.
Kidrick said that Bezos is passionate about the eventual prospect of deep space exploration.
"Jeff is all about the moon," Kidrick told News 8.
Kidrick also said this trip will inspire future space travelers.
"It's going to be very exciting because we are going to see the rocket return to Earth. We're going to ultimately see the capsule return to Earth," he added. "All of which can be re-used."
That re-usability is a huge factor in making space travel a viable industry moving forward, something echoed by Professor Gustaaf Jacobs, who teaches aerospace engineering at San Diego State University.
"It is amazing that this is happening," Jacobs told News 8. "We live in amazing times!"
Jacobs predicted that the prohibitively high cost of traveling into space, in the tens of millions of dollars in some cases, should come down, especially if the equipment is able to be re-used.
"For sure the price is going to go down very fast, especially if it becomes more mass-produced, like anything the price will go down real quick," Jacobs said.
He also pointed out that more young people are pursuing aerospace careers.
(Correction) At San Diego State, for instance, an upper-division aerospace engineering class which Jacobs teaches had attracted only about 20 students when Jacobs first started teaching there 15 years ago: now, there are more than 100 students in that advanced class.
Currently, about 500 students are studying aerospace engineering at San Diego State University.
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