Jeff Bezos (centre left) and his three crewmates. Source: Joe Skipper/Reuters.
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  • Jeff Bezos returned safely to Earth on Tuesday following a 10-minute ride that marks another milestone in the race to commercial space tourism
  • Accompanying him was his brother Mark, as well as 82-year-old aviator Wally Funk and recent high school graduate Oliver Daemen, 18
  • Mr Bezos’ space company Blue Origin is now planning two more flights with the New Shepard spacecraft this year
  • Already Blue Origin is reportedly approaching US$100 million (A$136.62 million) in private sales

After soaring 107 kilometres above the Texas desert, billionaire Jeff Bezos returned safely to Earth on Tuesday following a 10-minute ride that marks another milestone in the race to commercial space tourism.

“Best day ever,” he said, accompanied by three crewmates, after the New Shepard capsule descended with three large parachutes.

The fully autonomous spacecraft, manufactured by Mr Bezos’ space company Blue Origin, took off from the Launch Site One facility roughly 32 kilometres outside the rural town of Van Horn in Texas.

Accompanying the Amazon.com founder was his brother Mark, a private equity executive, as well as 82-year-old aviator Wally Funk and recent high school graduate Oliver Daemen, 18, who are now the oldest and youngest people to have reached space.

Ms Funk was one of the so-called Mercury 13 group of women who trained to become NASA astronauts in the 1960s, but was passed over because of her gender.

“I’ve been waiting a long time,” Ms Funk said after touching down. “I want to go again — fast.”

Daemen, whose father heads an investment management firm and is Blue Origin’s first paying customer, is set to study physics and innovation management at college in the Netherlands.

Mr Bezos, who founded Blue Origin in 2000, said the first crewed flight was a step towards developing a fleet of reusable spacecraft.

“We’re going to build a road to space so that our kids and their kids can build a future,” he said. “We need to do that to solve the problems here on Earth.”

Blue Origin is now planning two more flights with the New Shepard this year. While the schedule of flights after that is not yet known, the company is reportedly approaching US$100 million (A$136.62 million) in private sales.

“The demand is very, very high,” Mr Bezos said. “Big things start small.”

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