Though headlines may be focusing on billionaire Jeff Bezos, who founded Blue Origin in 2000, the reality is private companies are paving the way for a more accessible and more affordable space.
On Tuesday, the company plans to launch four people on a 10-minute trip into space, including Bezos, his brother, Mark, female aviation pioneer Wally Funk, and Oliver Daemen, an 18-year-old Dutchman and last-minute fill-in for the winner of a $28 million charity auction who had a scheduling conflict.
Funk, at age 82, and Daemen will become the oldest and youngest people in space.
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David Alexander, who leads Houston's Rice University's Space Institute, said Blue Origin is focused on creating a reusable system.
"To me, the big one is this re-usability," said Alexander. "We're seeing even China looking to develop, or has seemed to develop, their own reusable system because that's the future. That's being developed in part with these companies (Blue Origin, SpaceX, Virgin Galactic) that we're talking about."
Olga Bannova, the director for the University of Houston's space architecture graduate program, said the emphasis and the newsworthiness of these flights shouldn't be on setting records. She said it's about pushing space exploration beyond what we know and creating technology that can, one day, make all of our lives better.
"It's exciting times," said Bannova. "Hopefully, it will make possible the progress. How fast we move the technology, how fast we learn about ourselves, and how we can adjust and help humans in space."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.