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Let the bidding begin for a ticket aboard Jeff Bezos' rocket ship

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Blue Origin, the aerospace company backed by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, said Wednesday it is auctioning one ticket for a coveted seat aboard its first manned flight to space on July 20.

Sealed bidding began Wednesday and will continue until May 19, the company said. Bid prices will be unsealed May 19. The last day for bidding is June 12. Anyone looking to participate can visit Blue Origin's website.

The July trip will be aboard the New Shepard, a 60-foot rocket capsule that travels at a speed of Mach 3 and is designed to accommodate six people. Blue Origin plans to fill five seats with trained astronauts. The final seat will belong to the auction winner. Money from the winning bid will go to a Blue Origin  foundation that focuses on science, technology, engineering and math education.

Passengers on board the New Shepard will travel more than 60 miles above the planet's surface into suborbital space, where they can experience weightlessness and see the curvature of the planet before returning to Earth.

"This seat will change how you see the world," the company said in a statement

Blue Origin didn't reveal the price of future trips to space. Reuters reported in 2018 that Blue Origin was planning to charge passengers at least $200,000 for the ride, based on an appraisal of rival space voyage prices from billionaire Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic. 

Blue Origin began test flights on New Shepard in 2016. By December of the following year, it had completed six straight successful tests. Company officials said its most recent test flight, launched April 14, was significant because it featured personnel entering and exiting the capsule as a rehearsal for human flight. No staff members, however, remained on board for the launch.

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The online auction marks the latest development in the competition within the fledgling space-tourism industry. Branson's Virgin Galactic is expected to begin trips to space early next year. Tickets cost more than $250,000 each, and the company has sold more than 600 seats, according to CNBC.

Another competitor, Elon Musk's SpaceX, has already sold tickets for a private 10-day ride to the International Space Station. That trip is slated to launch later this year. Tickets sold for $55 million each.

A 2019 UBS analysis projected space tourism will be valued at $3 billion by 2030. The larger space industry is expected to be worth $805 billion by that same year, the investment bank forecast. 

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