Amazon's multi-billionaire founder Jeff Bezos is the moneybags behind the secret rocket project known as Blue Origin. Lately, there's been more information leaking out about New Shepard, Blue Origin's first full-sized spacecraft designed to lift humans into space. The spaceship will carry three or more astronauts, taking off and landing vertically just like in old science fiction movies.
That pic you see above is Blue Origin's first rocket, called Goddard, which a company rep says is "not necessarily what the operational New Shepard vehicle looks like." One of the goals of the project is to take space tourists 75 miles above the earth, letting them float around for three minutes in microgravity before the spaceship returns to Earth, constantly in a vertical position. When it gets close to the earth's surface the engines will restart, hopefully lowering the craft gently back to terra firma.
Bezos's rocket scientists aren't talking about the schedule of test flights, or when New Shepherd will be ready for its maiden flight. These guys must be doing something right — they just received $3.7 million from NASA to develop an astronaut escape system. This is the kind of private space innovation we need, now that NASA's human spaceflight program will soon grind to a halt.
Watch these video clips of Goddard's first flight in 2006 — looks more like a jetpack than a Saturn V: