Blue Origin, the commercial rocket company owned by Amazon.com’s Jeff Bezos, fully expected the New Shepard launch vehicle to crash land onto the desert at its facility in Van Horn, Texas during the test of its launch escape system. But not only did the escape system work as planned, blasting the crew capsule from the rocket and then bringing it safely back to the ground via parachute, but the rocket managed to soft land on its own power as well.

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The test was a crucial step toward Blue Origin’s goal of starting a Space tourism operation. The company would like to use the New Shepard to launch paying passengers in suborbital jaunts where they will experience weightlessness and be able to view spectacular views of the Earth from space. The launch escape system will provide just an added element of safety, like the airbags in a car, something that is rarely if ever used, but there when needed.

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The New Shepard launch vehicle and the crew capsule will now be retired, to be placed in a museum. Blue Origin will shortly resume its test regime with a new and improved New Shepard leading up to flights that will contain people.

Blue Origin also announced that the first passengers for the New Shepard would get the first crack at tickets for rides on board the orbital New Glenn spacecraft, envisioned to start flying in 2020.

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New Glenn would thus serve as a private, orbital cruise ship as well as a vehicle for visiting space stations such as the ISS and planned private facilities by such companies as Bigelow Aerospace.

Further in the future, Blue Origin plans to roll out the New Armstrong rocket. Little is known about this launch vehicle except that it is intended for flights to the moon and Mars,

The secret to Blue Origin’s business plan, as with its main rival SpaceX, is reusability.

When rockets can be flown, landed, and then reused again and again, the cost of space travel will plummet. When launch costs decline, space will be opened to commercial operations and, what was once the venue for a few well-trained government employees, will see the arrival of ordinary people, expanding human civilization beyond Earth.  

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