Jeff Bezos’ space venture Blue Origin auctioned off a seat on its upcoming first crewed spaceflight on Saturday for $28 million.
The winning bidder, whose name wasn’t released, will fly to the edge of space with the Amazon founder and his brother Mark on Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket scheduled to launch on July 20. The company will reveal the name of the auction winner “in the weeks following.”
Bidding opened at $4.8 million but accelerated quickly above $20 million within the first few minutes of the auction. The auction’s proceeds will be donated to Blue Origin’s education-focused nonprofit Club for the Future.
“Putting the world’s richest man and one of the most recognized figures in business into space is a massive advertisement for space as a domain for exploration, industrialization and investment,” Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas told clients earlier this month.
As the month-long bidding process leading up to the live auction closed on Thursday, the winning figure stood at more than $4 million, fueled by entries from more than 6,000 people from at least 143 countries, Blue Origin said.
The live auction capping the process is set to begin on Saturday at 1 p.m. EDT (1700 GMT) and last a few minutes.
While the funds raised from the event are earmarked for charity, Blue Origin is hoping to galvanize enthusiasm for its nascent suborbital tourism business.
However, Branson, who founded Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc, may attempt to steal Bezos’ thunder by joining a possible test flight to the edge of space over the July 4 weekend aboard Virgin’s VSS Unity spaceplane, one person familiar with the matter said.
The race is fueled by optimism that space travel will become mainstream as nascent technology is proven and costs fall, fueling what UBS estimates could be a $3 billion annual tourism market by 2030.
Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, as well as Musk’s SpaceX, have also discussed using their rockets to link far-flung global cities. UBS says that long-haul travel market could be worth more than $20 billion, though several barriers such as air-safety certification could derail the plans.
Blue Origin has not divulged its pricing strategy for future trips.