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Bishop's Stortford rocket engineer Jack Heslewood's guide to Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos' historic space flight

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As Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos blasted into space on Tuesday (July 20), Bishop's Stortford's very own rocket man, Jack Heslewood, guides Indie readers through the historic flight on the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969.

Jack, a former pupil at Manor Fields Primary and St Mary's Catholic School, is an aerospace engineer and associate of the Institute of Engineering.

He formerly worked for Marshall Aerospace in Cambridge before he became the first Englishman to win the Mister World title in 2019. As part of his role, he is currently working with the Institute of Engineering & Technology to inspire children aged 5 to 13 about science.

Mister World Jack Heslewood (49397911)
Mister World Jack Heslewood (49397911)

He said: "As an aerospace engineer, I have a passion for space travel and all things technical. I've been following the race into space journey between Jeff Bezos and Sir Richard Branson for many years and hope you enjoy it as much as I do."

Jack writes: "Jeff set up his space travel company, Blue Origin, in 2000, hoping to be the first businessman to fly into space, only ever available to astronauts historically.

"He was, however, pipped to the post last week by Sir Richard Branson's flight with Virgin Galactic, set up in 2004, launched in New Mexico.

Jeff Bezos with the New Shepard capsule (49398006)
Jeff Bezos with the New Shepard capsule (49398006)

"He flew with crew up 50 miles to the mesosphere. NASA recognises this as space flight and has awarded astronaut status at this height since the 1950s. Bezos, however, will attempt to reach the Karman Line at 62 miles up, just reaching the thermosphere, recognised as space by the governing body for aeronautic and astronautic records, the FAI, and the United Nations.

"This will be the first human flight launched by his space company, Blue Origin, a monumental achievement.

"Jeff and his younger brother Mark will be travelling inside a capsule attached to the Blue Origin rocket named New Shepard. This is a reusable rocket, an incredible achievement in itself. The capsule does not require a pilot because it is fully autonomous. In preparation for this incredible journey, it has been on 15 successful test flights, without humans on board.

"The brothers will be joined in the capsule by an incredible woman called Wally Funk.

Wally Funk with Jeff Bezos and, right, in the 1960s
Wally Funk with Jeff Bezos and, right, in the 1960s

"In 1961 Wally trained in a space programme for women called Mercury 13. However, despite qualifying top of the class, the programme got cancelled and none of the 13 flew. Now at the age of 82, Wally will be a VIP guest passenger on board the flight, fulfilling her lifelong dream to go into space.

"The complete flight will only take about 11 minutes from start to finish, spending only three minutes in zero gravity brushing over the Karman Line before making the descent back to Earth.

"The booster rocket will land itself seven minutes after take-off and the crew in the capsule will float to Earth on parachutes three minutes after that in the West Texas desert, if all goes to plan.

Blue Origin picture of Mark Bezos, Jeff Bezos, Oliver Daemen and Wally Funk (49398101)
Blue Origin picture of Mark Bezos, Jeff Bezos, Oliver Daemen and Wally Funk (49398101)

"To reach 62 vertical miles high they will fly at about three times the speed of sound, roughly 2,300mph, flying directly upward until the rocket expends most of its fuel.

"At the top of the trajectory, the crew capsule will separate from the rocket, briefly continue upward, before the capsule almost hovers at the top of its flight path, giving the passengers a few minutes of weightlessness and a wonderful view of Earth.

"The capsule then deploys a large plume of parachutes to slow its descent to less than 20mph before it hits the ground. The rocket, flying separately, reignites its engines and uses its on-board computers to execute a pinpoint, upright landing.

"The capsule will be pressurised so they don't need special suits. They have access to oxygen masks if the cabin loses pressure. The spacecraft is also equipped with an abort system designed to jettison the New Shepard capsule and passengers away from the rocket in case of emergency.

"The company is hoping to eventually provide affordable commercial space flights for ordinary people to experience space."

As well as the oldest person to go into space – Wally Funk – the flight has the youngest on board. Student Oliver Daemen, who is 18, was drafted in to replace the anonymous winner of a public auction who paid $28m (£20m) for a seat before pulling out.

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