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A seat within Blue Origin's New Shepard capsule. Photo: Blue Origin

Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos has invited Wally Funk — one of the women aviators who passed the Mercury astronaut tests in the 1960s — to join him and two others on the company's first crewed trip to the edge of space.

Why it matters: Funk's turn as an astronaut is years in the making, after the Mercury 13 — a group of women who mastered the same tests as NASA astronauts in the 1960s as part of a private initiative — were passed over by NASA.

What's happening: The suborbital flight is expected to launch from Texas on July 20, on the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing.

  • Bezos and Funk will be joined by Bezos' brother Mark, as well as a yet-to-be-revealed auction winner who paid $28 million for their seat aboard the capsule.
  • "I didn't think that I would ever get to go up," Funk, who had a long career in aviation post-Mercury 13, said in a video posted by Bezos to Instagram.

How it works: Blue Origin's New Shepard is designed to take a crew of passengers up about 62 miles above the surface of the Earth using a rocket and capsule.

  • Once at altitude, the capsule separates from the rocket, allowing those inside to feel a few minutes of weightlessness and a view of the Earth against the blackness of space before descending back to the planet under parachutes.
  • Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic is also working toward beginning commercial operations for its suborbital space system sometime in the coming year.

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Sep 20, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Jeff Bezos's climate fund is steering $1 billion into conservation

Photo: MARK RALSTON/AFP via Getty Images

Jeff Bezos' climate philanthropy on Monday pledged $1 billion for conservation and biodiversity, with the first grants beginning later this year focused on the Congo Basin, the Andes region and the Pacific Ocean.

Driving the news: The money will be used to "create, expand, manage, and monitor protected and conserved areas," according to the announcement.

Stock buybacks boom as corporate cash piles grow

The Delta variant is keeping more companies cautious about how to invest the mountains of cash they have at their disposal. That hesitancy has led, in part, to corporate spending on stock buybacks outpacing capital expenditures this year. 

Why it matters: Companies hoarded cash and raised prices over the past year — leaving them with a lot of money and decisions about what to do with it.

3 hours ago - Health

Health policies at stake in Democrats' infrastructure bet

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Democrats are at a pivotal moment in their quest to expand health care coverage, slash the cost of prescription drugs and create a social structure that prioritizes people's health.

Driving the news: Democrats have a clear list of health care priorities they'll be fighting for this week. Among them is a measure to expand Medicare to cover dental, vision and hearing benefits.

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