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Bezos shows his craft

Thu., Jan. 4, 2007

HOUSTON — founder Jeff Bezos wants engineers to join his fledgling and secretive private aerospace business, breaking a long silence about his operation in a remote section of West Texas by posting photos and videos on the company’s Web site of a test launch of a reusable spacecraft.

“We’re working, patiently and step-by-step, to lower the cost of spaceflight so that many people can afford to go and so that we humans can better continue exploring the solar system,” Bezos said on the Internet page of his space venture, Blue Origin. “Accomplishing this mission will take a long time, and we’re working on it methodically.”

The posting, with Bezos’ message dated Tuesday, shows a cone-shaped vehicle with four metal legs, reminiscent of the clunky models in 1950s science fiction movies, launching in a cloud of smoke, reaching an altitude of about 285 feet, according to Blue Origin, then landing on its legs.

“Slow and steady is the way to achieve results, and we do not kid ourselves into thinking this will get easier as we go along,” Bezos said. “Smaller, more frequent steps drive a faster rate of learning, help us maintain focus, and give each of us an opportunity to see our latest work fly sooner.”

He said the development vehicle, named Goddard and launched Nov. 13 from a site in Culberson County, about 120 miles east of El Paso, is the first step in a project that will end with New Shepard, “a vertical take-off, vertical-landing vehicle designed to take a small number of astronauts on a sub-orbital journey into space.”

Goddard presumably is named for Richard Hutchings Goddard, considered the father of modern rocket propulsion for building and successfully testing in 1926 the first rocket using liquid fuel. Alan Shepard was the first American to fly in space with a brief suborbital flight in 1961.

The Blue Origin posting is accompanied by other photos and videos from the November test flight.

“My only job at the launch was to open the champagne, and I broke the cork off in the bottle,” he said. “Fortunately, our other valve operations went more smoothly.”

Videos also offer views and sounds from inside the test vehicle during launch and landing.

“The launch was both useful and fun,” said Bezos, whose success with Seattle-based made him a billionaire. “Many friends and family came to watch the launch and support the team.”


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