Jeff Bezos has become the richest man in space as well as on Earth following his company Blue Origin’s first manned flight into space.
Mr Bezos, 57, was joined by 82-year old pilot Wally Funk, who underwent training but was denied the chance to fly to space in the 1960s, 18-year old Dutch student Oliver Daemen and his brother Mark Bezos.
The New Shepard rocket took off from a private launch site near Van Horn in the West Texas desert shortly after 2pm UK time, separating from the capsule at around 250,000ft and returning to the landing pad.
Mr Bezos and the passengers experienced weightlessness in zero gravity for around four minutes once the capsule reached around 350,000ft, before the capsule parachuted safely into the desert.
The entire journey from take off to touch down took around 11 minutes.
Mr Bezos sprayed the waiting group of friends, family and Blue Origin workers with champagne after emerging from the capsule.
“I want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer because you guys paid for all this,” he joked during a press conference. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart, very much, it’s very appreciated.
“My expectations were high and they were dramatically exceeded,” he added. “The zero-G [gravity] may be one of the biggest surprises because it felt so normal, almost like we were as humans evolved to be in that environment, which I know is impossible…it’s a very pleasurable experience.”
Ms Funk said she’d been waiting a long time to finally make it into space, despite her training in the US and Russia.
“I could always beat the guys on what they were doing because I was always stronger and I’ve always done everything on my own,” she said.
“I loved it – I loved being here with all of you… I had a great time – I want to go again, fast.”
Mr Bezos added that seeing the Earth’s own fragility with his own eyes was “very profound,” saying that it was “one thing to recognise that intellectually – it’s another thing to actually see with your own eyes how fragile that really is, and that was amazing.”
The entrepreneur is locked in a 21st-century space race with Sir Richard Branson, who successfully reached the edge of space in his Virgin Galactic rocket plane on 11 July, and Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and space exploration company SpaceX.
Sir Richard congratulated the passengers on their “impressive” journey, adding: “Very best to all the crew from me and all the team at Virgin Galactic.
Tuesday also marks the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission taking humans to the Moon for the first time.
Mr Bezos, who recalled watching the mission as a five-year old in 1969, recovered components of two rocket engines used in the flight from the floor of the Atlantic ocean in 2013. The parts are on display at Seattle’s Museum of Flight.