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A test dummy flies aboard Blue Origin's New Shepard. Photo: Blue Origin

A seat aboard Blue Origin’s first crewed flight to suborbital space fetched $28 million during a live auction on Saturday.

Why it matters: While the market for suborbital tourist flights to space may not be huge, experts say it's an important, public-facing part of the space industry that could popularize it as more people start flying.

Catch up quick: Saturday's live event was the finale in Blue Origin's multi-part auction for this seat on its New Shepard vehicle. The proceeds from the auction will benefit the company's STEM-focused foundation Club for the Future.

  • "Wow, I need a second here," Ariane Cornell, director of astronaut and orbital sales at Blue Origin said during the webcast after the auction ended.
  • The winner — who has not been revealed — will also be flying to the edge of space with Jeff Bezos, his brother Mark and a yet-to-be-shared fourth passenger.
  • The flight is expected to launch July 20.

How it works: A flight aboard New Shepard takes about 11 minutes. The passengers launch within the capsule atop a rocket, reaching about 62 miles up into the air.

  • The capsule then comes down under parachutes as the reusable rocket lands upright back on Earth.

The big picture: Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic is also working to launch its first paying customers on suborbital flights to space, with Branson expected to potentially fly sometime this year.

Go deeper

Sep 18, 2021 - Science

Inspiration4's all-civilian crew calls Tom Cruise from space

Photo: Neil Mockford/GC Images via Getty Images

The all-civilian SpaceX crew called actor Tom Cruise on Friday, giving him a glimpse into their experience in orbit two days after the successful Inspiration4 launch.

Don't forget: NASA announced last year that it would work with Cruise on a film aboard the International Space Station — though it's unclear where that currently stands.

"Atmospheric river" to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood

A map depicting 24-hour preciptation forecast (inches) ending Monday at 5a.m. local time. Photo: NOAA

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are set dump historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest from this weekend, forecasters warn.

Why it matters: A strong atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, is predicted to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood.

10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves to be removed after fires

A firefighter looks up at a giant sequoia tree after fire burned through the Sequoia National Forest near California Hot Springs, California, on Sept. 23. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

"Upwards of" 10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves have been "weakened by drought, disease, age, and/or fire" and must be removed in the wake of California's wildfires, the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks announced.

Why it matters: The damage to these trees, considered "national treasures," and work to remove them means a nearby key highway must remain closed to visitors as they have "the potential to strike people, cars, other structures, or create barriers to emergency response services," per a statement from the national parks.