Watch Jeff Bezos get launched into space.” That’s what my phone told me this morning. I have to give kudos to whoever pushed that phrasing out to all iPhone users. Bravo to them, and of course, bravo to Bezos who successfully got launched into – and subsequently returned from – space (the final frontier).
At 9:15 AM, Blue Origin Mission NS-16 was a go. The New Shepard launch vehicle with its interesting design barreled out of orbit with four passengers onboard: Bezos himself, his brother Mark, former NASA hopeful Wally Funk, and 18-year-old paying passenger Oliver Daemen. This wasn’t a NASA mission – actually, far from it. Rather, it’s the pet project of Bezos and the vessel was fully autonomous and computer piloted (like a space Tesla!)
The vessel climbed higher and higher until it reached what’s called the Kármán line – the defining boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and space (this is also 86 km higher than Richard Branson got – but who’s counting?). For a brief moment, the world’s richest person … was gone. But then he came back.
As you might have guessed, watches were involved in today’s festivities. Now, Bezos and crew didn’t technically make it out of Earth’s atmosphere – a feat accomplished by NASA more than 60 years ago (and the Soviets before that), but they did strap on similar timepieces. On each of the passenger’s wrists, attached to a very cool grey Omega velcro strap, was a Speedmaster Moonwatch.
Specifically, they wore the reference 310.30.42.50.01.001 aka the Speedy with a hesalite crystal (thank goodness it was hesalite) and the new METAS-certified 3861 movement. But these weren’t off-the-rack models. Omega donated the timepieces for the mission (as if Bezos was somehow unable to afford them) and made a few cosmetic tweaks for the occasion.
Bezos’ Omega Speedmaster (and ostensibly, all the watches on board) had casebacks engraved with the wearer’s name, the flight number, and the feather insignia of Blue Origin. I’m imagining that’s less text than the manifesto currently printed on the back of the standard Moonwatch. I imagine it reads something to the effect of “Flight Qualified for a 10-Minute Space Cruise.”
Now, there’s a lot of ways to feel about today’s launch – about a billionaire and his brother (and Amazon’s number one customer) taking a rocket really high in the sky. But for space fans out there, we can certainly appreciate Wally Funk’s journey. Her 10 minute ride on the Bezos Craft and few moments of weightlessness were 50 years in the making (she had trained for the Mercury program only to be denied a mission for not having an engineering degree). At 82-years-old, to be able to take this ride is remarkable – and to wear the iconic Omega Moonwatch on her wrist when she did it – like her colleagues did all those years ago – even better.
When Bezos did return to earth, he did so with a cowboy hat on, giving new meaning to the Clint Eastwood film, Space Cowboys. No matter where you fall on this story, it’s certainly another chapter in the enduring and continuing history of the Omega Speedmaster, blending tradition with the future of space travel.