Amazon’s Blue Origin rocket may have pulled closer to rival SpaceX in the next-gen market of space tourism. While, to date, Elon Musk’s company has made most of the headlines, the commercial space company founded by Jeff Bezos and now helmed by CEO Bob Smith recently drew a line in the sand. Blue Origin will put paying customers into space by spring of 2019.
“Within the next 18 months, we’re going to be launching humans into space… These won’t be astronauts…these will be everyday citizens,” Smith told reporters.
Smith says this has been the plan all along, but the news was “news” to the assembled reporters at a recent space conference. CNN reported the date was a shift from what company president Rob Meyerson said last year when he promised the first passengers would go up sometime in 2018.
But a company spokesman told CNN later, that the dates “internally” remained consistent. “Internal dates have not shifted … We will fly humans when we’re ready, and not a moment sooner.”
The ambition is now receiving support from a revamped National Space Council, which President Trump brought back to life after a two-decade break.
Because of the aggressive timelines set by rival commercial space companies, excitement about the US space program is higher than it’s been in decades. While the space race of the previous generation pitted America against the Soviet Union, international space exploration today is largely cooperative, with many countries working together on the International Space Station.
Russia is also working closely with the United States on developing a deep space program, a cooperative plan that would allow manned space missions further than ever before. But, largely, these missions are developing outside the headlines. Today’s newsmakers are the commercial entities, especially SpaceX and Blue Origin.
If Blue Origin does meet its early 2019 deadline, they will be on par, though slightly behind SpaceX on timeline. But the recent announcement does allow Bezos’ company to leapfrog Musk’s in public interest, at least for the moment.
Based on the costs involved in these commercial spaceflights, positive consumer PR is vital to the success of these endeavors. They need sponsorship money so they will need keen consumer interest. The first company that takes “average people” into space will definitely have the inside track in that regard.
From that point, it will be an ongoing battle to see who can grab the most fans, both those with the ability to buy tickets and those with an interest in watching the next step in pioneering exploration happen in real time.
Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of the New York based public relations firm 5WPR: one of the 20 largest PR Firms in the United States.