Want to go to space? Bidding is open for a ride aboard Blue Origin's New Shepard mission

For decades, spaceflight has been reserved for astronauts, but cosmic tourism could become a reality for everyday Earthlings as companies compete in the burgeoning market.

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Image: Blue Origin

For decades, spaceflight has been reserved for astronauts, but a new auction allows everyday space enthusiasts to bid on the opportunity to venture into the final frontier. On May 5, Blue Origins announced that bidding had opened; a symbolic date for aviation innovation and pioneering spacefaring firsts.

"On this day 60 years ago, Alan Shepard made history by becoming the first American to fly to space. In the decades since, fewer than 600 astronauts have been to space above the Kármán Line to see the borderless Earth and the thin limb of our atmosphere. They all say this experience changes them," said a portion of the Blue Origin post about the auction.

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Ticket to space and auction info

On July 20, Blue Origins plans to launch the company's New Shepard vehicle with its first crew strapped inside for the journey. One of these crewed seats is being reserved for the winner of the company's auction announced earlier this month. Overall, the auction involves three phases and the sealed online bidding will take place from May 5 through May 19. During this time period, Blue Origins said that people can bid any amount they choose while noting that these bids are not visible.

On May 19, unsealed online bidding begins and this means "bidding becomes visible and participants must exceed the highest bid to continue in the auction." A live online auction will take place on June 12. Blue Origins said the winning bid will be donated to the company's foundation, the Club for the Future, to "inspire future generations to pursue careers in STEM and help invent the future of life in space."

Those interested in bidding on the seat can do so on the Blue Origin website.

"We named our launch vehicle after Alan Shepard to honor his historic flight. New Shepard has flown 15 successful consecutive missions to space and back above the Kármán Line through a meticulous and incremental flight program to test its multiple redundant safety systems. Now, it's time for astronauts to climb onboard. This seat will change how you see the world," said the Blue Origin post about the auction.

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Image: Blue Origin

Private space flight market

A number of companies are competing in the burgeoning private spaceflight market space. In February, SpaceX announced that it was targeting a launch date "no earlier than the fourth quarter" for its Inspiration4 mission, which the company touts as the "world's first all-commercial astronaut mission to orbit."

Rather than launching space tourists with standard rockets, the company Space Perspective plans to use a high-altitude balloon and pressurized cabin to chauffeur people to the cusp of outer space . The company previously stated that uncrewed test flights of its balloon-bound capsule known as Spaceship Neptune are scheduled for early 2021 with operational flights targeting 2024.

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