— This is the script of CNBC's news report for China's CCTV on May 6, 2021, Thursday.
Space fans are thrilled by the announcement from Blue Origin. The target date of the first flight with passengers on July 20 is just over two months away. This date will mark the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. And May 5, the day when Blue Origin released its plan, is the 60th anniversary of the Mercury-Redstone 3 flight, which carried astronaut Alan Shepard into space. Shepard completed a 15-minute suborbital flight then, making him the first American and the second human to fly in space. Blue Origin named its flight vehicle after him, as New Shepard.
New Shepard is designed to autonomously fly as many as six passengers more than 100 km above Earth, high enough to experience a few minutes of weightlessness and to see the curvature of the planet before returning to the earth.
DIRECTOR OF ASTRONAUT SALES, BLUE ORIGIN
"As the rocket and the booster, excuse me the booster and the capsule liftoff, they accelerate to about MACH3, the astronauts experience about three GS. In fact, it's quite comfortable in those reclining seats that you just saw. And then at about seventy-five kilometers or about 250,000 feet, the two vehicles separate. And that's when the astronauts start to feel their zero GS. "
Blue Origin plans to test the market interest in this kind of space travel through an auction for one ticket. The auction will accept anonymous bids until May 19 and any bids placed after that will be visible to the public till June 12. Money collected from this auction will be donated to a fund held by Blue Origin. The company did not provide details about its pricing plan. But according to Business Insider, in 2018 one Blue Origin employee with knowledge of the pricing plan said the company would sell tickets in the range between $200,000 to $300,000, that is around 1.3 million to 1.9 million Chinese Yuan.
It's yet to see how much consumer interest there is in the market, the massive potential in the space industry has drawn huge interest from the superrich. Just like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos also invests his own money into this area. In 2017, Bezos said he would sell $1 billion worth of Amazon shares to support Blue Origin. Earlier this year, he said he would focus on projects like Blue Origin when he steps down as Amazon's CEO. Regulatory files show that on the day when Blue Origin announced the plan Bezos sold another $2 billion worth of Amazon shares in the previous few days. Besides Musk and Bezos, British billionaire Richard Brandson is another major player in the space market. His company Virgin Galactic sold 600 tickets, but the date of its maiden flight has been postponed several times.
Aside from the uncertainty around the first passenger space flight, space travel is still a luxury, only for the affluent. George Whitesides, an executive at Virgin Galactic, said that with the price of over $200,000 per flight, there are around 2 million people globally who can afford to experience space travel over the coming years. But he hopes that they could reduce the price to a level that is affordable to as many as 40 million people. If the potential customer base can be enlarged, UBS predicts that the market size of space tourism can reach $3 billion by 2030.
How much market share can each of these companies grab? Well, it depends on how well they can do in the race.