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Jeff Bezos and three other passengers took flight with his space company Blue Origin on Tuesday morning, launching high above West Texas.

Why it matters: It's Blue Origin's first human flight and a major technical milestone for the company as it focuses on bringing suborbital spaceflight to more people in the future.

What happened: The company's New Shepard capsule and rocket took flight at 9:11 a.m. ET, lofting the capsule high above the desert and bringing the crew about 62 miles into the air before descending back to Earth under parachutes.

  • Bezos was joined by his brother Mark, the company's first paying customer 18-year-old Oliver Daemen, and pioneering aviator Wally Funk, one of the women that passed the Mercury astronaut tests in the 1960s. Funk is now the oldest person ever to fly to space and Daemen is the youngest.
  • “It’s dark up here,” Funk was heard saying on the flight webcast before the crew came back down to Earth. “You have a very happy crew up here, I want you to know," Bezos said to mission control.
  • Read a full play-by-play.

How it works: The New Shepard is designed to autonomously send its passengers on a ride to space without the need for a pilot within the craft.

  • "We set out to design this vehicle for anybody — not professional astronauts — anybody with very little training, and that is a very hard problem," Gary Lai, the senior director of the New Shepard design team, said during the launch webcast. "And yes, we have succeeded and I would put my own kids on that vehicle."

The big picture: It's been a pretty wild suborbital summer. Bezos' flight comes after Richard Branson flew to suborbital space with his own company, Virgin Galactic.

  • The two companies are now working to start flying more paying customers to space and back again.
  • Yes, but: It's not clear how much of a market there is for these kinds of flights, and the two companies haven't yet revealed how much their tickets will cost for customers interested in purchasing.

Go deeper

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Oct 26, 2021 - Science

Space industry continues its growth in 2021

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The space industry continued to grow in the third quarter of 2021, according to a new report from the Space Foundation.

Why it matters: The investments will fuel the future of the space industry, which Bank of America says could reach $1.4 trillion by 2030.

Surprising pandemic side effect: Soaring trade deficits

Source: Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis; Chart: Axios Visuals

Inflation and jobs may get all the economic headlines, but meanwhile a big shift is taking place in the underpinnings of the world economy: The U.S. trade deficit is soaring.

What's happening: Americans' spending on imported physical goods has gone through the roof, while exports are growing slowly, making the U.S. the world's consumer of last resort.

Mike Allen, author of AM
2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Third Way: "Big Lie" could become "Big Coup"

Graphic: Third Way

Third Way, the center-left think tank, is urging fellow Democrats to respond to the Capitol riot with "the size, scope, and seriousness of a presidential campaign," co-founder Matt Bennett tells me.

Driving the news: "For the first time in U.S. history, a party must mount two parallel presidential campaigns: one to win the election, and the other to prevent its theft," Bennett said, calling this "a Paul Revere moment."