Billionaire Jeff Bezos reached the edge of space on Blue Origin’s first human flight and returned safely to Earth.
The Amazon founder blasted off in the sub-orbital New Shepard rocket from Texas on Tuesday, the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
Minutes later he emerged safely from the capsule after it landed softly on the ground, slowed down by three huge parachutes.
He took off with his brother Mark female astronaut Wally Funk, 82, who trained in 1961 but never went to space, and the company’s first customer, Dutch 18-year-old Oliver Daemen.
Ms Funk and Mr Daemen are the oldest and youngest people to fly into space respectively.
She took on board a postcard of herself standing in front of the American flag, having promised to take a picture with it and Earth in the background.
The crew members also took a number of historic items with them, including the goggles Amelia Earhart used to fly across the Atlantic and a brass medal made from the first hot air balloon which flew in 1783 – the first time humans left Earth in control of flight.
The crew also carried a piece of canvas from the Wright Flyer – the plane flown by the Wright brothers.
During a post-flight press conference Jeff Bezos presented his mother with a feather necklace he wore on the flight.
Speaking at the event, he thanked all the engineers at Blue Origin saying the crew owed them a “deep gratitude”.
He also thanked every Amazon employee and customer, saying “you guys paid for all of this”.
He added: “Thank you from the bottom of my heart, very much. It’s very appreciated.”
Speaking about the flight, Mr Bezos said: “Oh my God. My expectations were high, and they were dramatically exceeded.
“The zero Gs may have been one of the biggest surprises, because it felt so normal.
“It felt like, almost like we were as humans evolved to be in that environment, which I know is impossible, but it felt so serene and peaceful and the floating.
Key Mission Stats from #NSFirstHumanFlight:
Crew capsule apogee: 347,563 ft AGL / 351,210 ft MSL (105 km AGL / 107… https://t.co/VoZySEwNGP
“It’s actually much nicer than being in full one gravity.”
He said how fragile the atmosphere of Earth looked, adding: “We are damaging it.”
The Amazon founder said: “We’re going to build a road space, so that our kids and their kids can build the future, and we need to do that, we need to do that to solve the problems here on Earth.
“This is not about escaping Earth. This is the most, is the only good planet, in the solar system.
“This is the only good one, I promise you, and we have to take care of it.
“And when you go into space and see how fragile it is you’ll want to take care of it even more.”
After the flight, the crew were each presented with a pin in the shape of the letter A, made up of the road to space representing the two side arms, and a feather – Blue Origin’s symbol – making up the cross bar.
The point of the A was topped with a small blue sapphire as a symbol of Earth.
The flight lasted about 11 minutes from launch to capsule landing.
Congratulations to all of Team Blue past and present on reaching this historic moment in spaceflight history. This… https://t.co/rFAKvFK6TJ
Astronauts experienced three to four minutes of zero gravity and travelled above the Karman Line, which is considered to be the boundary of space.
After the launch the crew could be heard cheering and shouting “woohoo”.
The booster that blasted the group of four into space before separating successfully landed back on Earth shortly after lift-off.
Shortly after the soft landing, a voice that appeared to be Jeff Bezos could be heard saying: “Best day ever.”
Asked by mission control how he was, his brother Mark said: “I am unbelievably good.”
Jeff Bezos hugged his parents Jackie and Mike as he exited the cabin, and the four adventurers were greeted with cheers and champagne from family and friends.
Ms Funk thanked the Amazon founder for inviting her aboard New Shepard.
A video taken of the crew in zero-gravity saw them playing catch with ping pong balls and trying to catch Skittles in their mouths as the sweets floated in the air.
The Bezos brothers held the palms of their hands up to the camera to reveal the message “Hi Mom”.
The mission came days after Sir Richard Branson flew into space on Virgin Galactic, and Blue Origin aimed to reach an altitude of roughly 66 miles, more than 10 miles higher than Sir Richard’s ride on July 11.
Blue Origin, founded by Mr Bezos – estimated by Forbes to be the world’s richest man – is planning two more flights before the end of the year.
At the end of the press conference Mr Bezos announced a new philanthropic award, the Courage and Civility Award, giving activist and TV personality Van Jones, and chef and humanitarian Jose Andres, a hundred million US dollars each to give to charities of their choice.