Amazon founder Jeff Bezos announced Monday he will fly into space next month on the first human flight launched by his Blue Origin rocket firm.
"Ever since I was five years old, I've dreamed of travelling to space. On July 20th, I will take that journey with my brother," Bezos said on his Instagram account.
Blue Origin said Bezos and his brother Mark will travel on the first crewed flight of the company's New Shepard capsule. The company is auctioning off the third spot, and that bidding is already at US$2.8 million with nearly 6,000 participants from 143 countries.
The trip will last a total of 10 minutes, four of which passengers will spend above the Karman line that marks the recognised boundary between Earth's atmosphere and space.
After lift-off, the capsule separates from its booster, then spends four minutes at an altitude exceeding 60 miles (100 kilometres), during which time those onboard experience weightlessness and can observe the curvature of Earth from space.
The booster lands autonomously on a pad two miles from the launch site, and the capsule floats back to the surface with three large parachutes that slow it down to about a mile an hour when it lands.
New Shepard has successfully carried out more than a dozen uncrewed test runs launching from its facility in the Guadalupe Mountains of West Texas. The reusable suborbital rocket system was named after Alan Shepard, the first American in space 60 years ago. The proceeds from the auction will go to Blue Origin's foundation, Club for the Future, which aims to inspire future generations to pursue careers in STEM.
After the auction for the first flight, Blue Origin will offer places for sale.