If a Jeff Bezos company is in the headlines this time of year, it’s usually Amazon and its exhausting—even dangerous—rush to prepare hundreds of thousands of packages a day.
But Bezos would probably prefer you read about a different company of his, the one that is doing, as he has put it, his “most important work”: Blue Origin, his space venture.
Blue Origin this week launched a rocket to the edge of space and back, its 12th test flight. The New Shepard rocket—named for Alan Shepard, the first American to go into space—took off from a test site in the middle of the Texas desert, with a gumdrop-shaped capsule on its nose.
The vehicle climbed 66 miles (106 kilometers) into the sky, piercing an upper-atmosphere boundary that is considered the beginning of outer space. The capsule and the rocket came apart, and then began their separate descents to the ground. The rocket landed vertically, firing its engines to slow itself and touch down with a gentle bounce. The capsule coasted down beneath a trio of puffy parachutes, kicking up a ring of dust as it settled on the desert.
Next year, Bezos hopes, people will walk out of that capsule, grinning from ear to ear—the picture of satisfied customers. In the scheme of grandiose plans for space, this one is relatively small. But in 2020, it could make Blue Origin the first company to regularly ferry customers to space, an accomplishment that fits tidily into Bezos’s principle of “customer obsession,” which focuses on the consumer over the competition. And, as with Amazon, Blue Origin’s seemingly simple goal underlies a much more expansive vision.