A ticket to take a brief trip to space with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos next month has been sold at auction for $28 million.
The bidding process, which began in early May, drew offers from more than 7,000 participants from 159 countries, Blue Origin said. The price had stood at $4.8 million ahead of Saturday’s live auction, which was streamed online.
The identity of the winning bidder has not yet been made public, but will be revealed in the coming weeks, Blue Origin said.
Whoever it is will be travelling with three other passengers, including Bezos and his younger brother, Mark. The “fourth and final” passenger will be announced soon, the company said.
At approximately 10 minutes from launch to landing, around three of which will be spent in zero gravity, the trip will cost the winning bidder more than $9 million per minute spent in space.
The winning bid amount will be donated to Club for the Future, Blue Origin’s foundation focused on STEM education programs.
The launch is scheduled to take place in Texas on July 20, 15 days after Bezos is due to step aside as Amazon chief executive.
A spokesperson for the company declined to comment on whether the timing of Bezos’s transition to executive chair was related to his desire to take the trip, which will be the first by the company to include human passengers.
“Ever since I was five years old, I’ve dreamed of travelling to space,” Bezos said in an Instagram post last week. “On July 20, I will take that journey with my brother. The greatest adventure, with my best friend.”
To date, 15 test flights of the New Shepard capsule have been undertaken. All have been successful with the exception of the first, in April 2015, when the rocket suffered a crash landing, though the capsule returned to Earth safely.
If successful, the trip on New Shepard would be the first commercial space flight to take a civilian beyond the Kármán line, the internationally recognised edge of space, more than 60 miles (100km) above Earth.
However, Blue Origin’s schedule has reportedly prompted a rush from Virgin Galactic, the competing space tourism company founded by Sir Richard Branson, to advance its plans.
“Watch this space…” the businessman wrote in a recent tweet. The company held a successful test last month.
Blue Origin, which has so far been bankrolled entirely by funds raised by Bezos selling off his Amazon shares, has not announced any details on pricing for future trips—but said the “most competitive” bidders will be approached for interest in upcoming flights.