Chinese rocket’s uncontrolled landing near the Maldives highlights the need to mitigate a larger space debris issue.
Blue Origin, billionaire Jeff Bezos’s space firm, disclosed that the current highest bid for a seat on the inaugural flight of its New Shepard spacecraft stands at $2.4m as the second round of its auction continues.
The company said it received more than 5,200 bidders from 136 countries in the first round, but did not disclose the highest bid as that round was sealed.
The second round kicked off with an initial bid of $1.4m, according to the Blue Origin website.
The process will last until June 10 and conclude with a live online auction on June 12.
The company is targeting July 20 for the first suborbital sightseeing trip on its spacecraft, a landmark moment in a competition to usher in a new era of private commercial space travel.
The New Shepard rocket-and-capsule combo is designed to autonomously fly six passengers more than 100km (62 miles) above Earth into suborbital space.
Reuters news agency reported in 2018 that Blue Origin was planning to charge passengers at least $200,000 for the ride, based on an appraisal of rival plans from billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc and other considerations, though its thinking may have changed.
Five of the six seats on the first flight will be filled by astronauts Blue Origin plans to name at a later time. The sixth seat will go to the winner of the auction — if they meet the requirements, that is.
According to the fine print, the winning astronaut must weigh between 50kg (110 pounds) and 101kg (223 pounds) and should be between 1.5 metres (5 feet) and 1.9 metres (6 feet 4 inches) in height.
Passengers should also be able to withstand forces of up to 3gs for a couple of minutes during ascent (or up to three times their weight), and five-and-a-half times their weight (or 5.5gs) for a few seconds during the descent into the atmosphere, the company said.