Amazon founder Jeff Bezos blasted to the edge of space and spent a few minutes outside Earth's atmosphere Tuesday on the first crewed flight from his firm Blue Origin.
An elated Bezos could be heard calling it "the best day ever" after landing back on Earth.
The milestone launch in the modern commercial space race comes on the 52nd anniversary of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin's moon landing in 1969, though the space-faring landscape has evolved by giant leaps since then as billionaires emerge as key players driving the new race to the cosmos.
Bezos, who holds the title of the richest man in the world per Bloomberg data, has said the spaceflight will fulfill a lifelong dream and he is also curious how it will "change" him.
Here is how the launch unfolded.
Bezos discusses ambitious plans for Blue Origin’s future
Bezos revealed what the astronauts spoke about as they were in the capsule ahead of the launch, saying he told his crew mates that the flight is not just about “adventure” but also the start of “something big.”
“What we're doing is the first step of something big, and I know what that feels like, I did it three decades ago, nearly three decades ago, with Amazon,” Bezos said. “Big things start small, but you can tell when you're onto something, and this is important.”
“We're going to build a road to space so that our kids and their kids can build the future, and we need to do that, we need to do that to solve the problems here on Earth,” Bezos added. “This is not about escaping Earth.”
The billionaire said Earth is “the only good planet” in our solar system, and “we’ve sent robotic probes to all of them.”
“When you go to space and see how fragile it is, you want to take care of it even more, and that's what this is about,” Bezos said.
He also estimated that Blue Origin has approached some $100 million in private ticket sales already.
While building space infrastructure will take decades, Bezos said, “This is how it starts.”
’I want to go again,’ says an emotional Wally Funk
Funk officially became the oldest person ever to go to space on Tuesday and fulfilled a lifelong dream that had been put on hold for decades because she is a woman.
“I’ve been waiting a long time to finally get up there,” the emotional 82-year-old said after the spaceflight. “I didn't do dolls, I did outside stuff, I flew airplanes.”
Funk trained with the so-called Mercury 13 program for women astronauts in the '60s, but NASA at the time was only sending men into space.
She called her trip to space on Tuesday "wonderful" and "a great time."
The pioneer for women in aerospace also added that she is not done with space travel just yet, saying, “I want to go again, fast!”
Bezos thanks Amazon employees, customers
Bezos, who stepped down as Amazon CEO earlier this month ahead of the launch, thanked the staff and customers of his e-commerce empire for funding the trip.
“I also want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer, because you guys paid for all of this,” he said during the post-launch news conference.
“Seriously, for every Amazon customer out there and every Amazon employee, thank you from the bottom of my heart,” he added.
Bezos has previously said that he sold some $1 billion in Amazon stock annually to fund Blue Origin in its infancy.
New Shepard crew receives astronaut pins
Blue Origin’s Jeff Ashby, a former Space Shuttle commander, presented astronaut wings to the four crew members at a post-launch press conference.
Ashby said the wings were designed with “a tiny blue sapphire” at the top, “to remind these folks that they are from planet Earth and that they have a mission to protect this home.”
While presenting wings to the Amazon founder, Ashby told Bezos, "There are few people I know more deserving of this."
"I don’t know what you are going to do next, but I can’t wait to watch," Ashby added.
An emotional Funk said it was the best pin she has ever received -- and promised there would be “more to come.”