Earlier this year, Jeff Bezos's spaceflight company, Blue Origin, launched its first rocket ship (a vehicle that both the Huffington Post and Mashable compared to a penis) to a height 307,000 feet above the earth. Now, Blue Origin has started taking sign-ups for rides into space.
On Tuesday, the Puget Sound Business Journal reported that Kent-based Blue Origin had added a sign-up section to its website for the "astronaut experience." One video on the site shows animated, googly-eyed space tourists floating weightlessly around a spacecraft cabin while gazing at the curvature of the earth.
"Why does this experience change who you are at the deepest level?" former NASA commander Jeff Ashby asks on camera. "It's one of those rare, life-defining moments that you have to experience for yourself."
A life-defining moment has been the selling point for almost every major space tourism company getting into the private spaceflight game. Last year, I wrote about how space tourism companies were using something called the "overview effect" to draw wealthy tourists paying for the rides of their lives.
The overview effect—a trippy, profound experience of seeing Earth from outer space—is supposed to make humans realize how fragile and precious Earth really is. The architect of the "overview effect" idea, an author named Frank White, also wrote about how those fortunate to see Earth from that perspective owe it to the rest of humanity to encourage the colonization of outer space.
But there are a couple of major questions surrounding the "overview effect" idea. The first is whether it's even real; the "overview effect" is largely unproven, based almost solely on a small sample of anecdotes from astronauts. The other question has to do with whether overview is simply a new name for a condition called "break-off," a state of spatial disorientation and sometimes-damaging anxiety experienced by pilots at the edges of the atmosphere.
Private spaceflight companies like Blue Origin are still promising a psychic reward for pursuing a new kind of manifest destiny in outer space. Jeff Bezos has invested at least half a billion dollars in Blue Origin. Late last year, NASA also announced that it would continue to work with Blue Origin on the agency's commercial crew program, an attempt to send astronauts to the International Space Station without relying on Russian rocket ships.