Thus, Jeff Bezos becomes the first billionaire to fly beyond the Karman Line while not necessarily becoming the first billionaire in space..
The Karman Line is the imaginary point that begins outer space or at the edge of space , according to the definition of space by Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI). It is the boundary between our atmosphere and outer space. The Karman Line is 100km above sea level. It was scientifically derived by Hungarian American Physicist, Theodore von Harman almost 70 years ago.
Richard Branson last week became the the first billionaire to fly into space when he did so in his company’s spacecraft. This is going by the definition of space by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). NASA accepts that space begins at 80km above sea level. This is because it was determined that at 80km an object with sufficient velocity is able to orbit the earth without propulsion. At this attitude, the atmosphere also becomes too thin to support a regular aircraft via aerodynamics.
Hence, while Besos’, Blue Origin (New Shepard) rocket crossed the Karman Line as defined by FAI, while Branson’s Virgin Galactic Unity 22) did not. But it is a little more complicated because the original Karman Line was put at 84km above sea level before it was adjusted by FAI to 100km. Branson’s spacecraft reached an altitude of 86km, hence actually crossed the Karman Line as originally derived by Theodore von Karman.
What is not in dispute is that Besos reached 21 km higher altitude than Branson. The New Shepard reached a maximum altitude of 107km above the earth.
However, both of them were in space and travelled at Mach 3, which is three times the speed of sound, to do so. Both billionaires and their crewmates also experienced weightlessness and floated inside their spacecraft. They also clearly saw the curvature of the spherical earth and were able to to peer into the void and blackness of space around the curvature of the earth from opposite the sun.
From 80km above sea level, the atmosphere becomes much thinner and no regular aircraft can fly or survive there. Human beings and objects begin to experience weightlessness in the presence of microgravity and freefall.
While Besos and Branson have earned their astronaut wings, they however did not go into orbit as their suborbital spacecraft’s are not powerful enough to launch into orbit around the earth. Branson technically spent 4 minutes in space while Besos spent 3 minutes.
US millionaire, Dennis Tito remains the richest man to go into orbit in space around the earth. He spent six days at the International Space Station in 2001.