Blue Origin aims to sign up Dubai's ultra-wealthy for space tourism flights

Event to raise awareness of suborbital flights held at exclusive club

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Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin is aiming to sign up Dubai's ultra-wealthy for its space tourism flights.

An event was held on Monday at The Arts Club Dubai, an exclusive members' club that charges a Dh15,750 ($4,280) annual subscription and Dh15,750 joining fee.

The club, which opened its doors at the Dubai International Financial Centre in 2020, is the first international outpost of a historic London private members’ club established in 1863.

About 75 members and invited guests attended the gathering, where Blue Origin representatives spoke about the experience on a New Shepard suborbital flight, which offers a few minutes of weightlessness and views of Earth against the darkness of space.

The National was asked not to take photographs of members. Several refused to comment on whether they had purchased a ticket or would be interested.

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It's a private members' event for the Arts Club. So, the the members are creatives, heads of agencies, CEOs, C-level executives, business owners, entrepreneurs and philanthropists

“This event is about creating awareness of the opportunity,” said Anna Hazlett, principal director of AzurX, the strategic adviser of Blue Origin for the Middle East region.

“It's a private members' event for the Arts Club. So, the members are creatives, heads of agencies, CEOs, C-level executives, business owners, entrepreneurs and philanthropists.

“We've also invited our own sort of curated list of people that we know are interested.”

She said that this was the “beginning of a series of events” that the company plans to hold in the UAE and the region.

Blue Origin has never revealed its price per seat, but its competitor Virgin Galactic charges $450,000.

An audience member asked a Blue Origin spokesman at the event what a ticket would cost, but was told to ask the question in private.

The company has flown 31 people on its space tourism flights since 2021.

Flights have been grounded since late September as the US Federal Aviation Administration investigates a failed uncrewed mission.

The escape system of the spacecraft was activated after the New Shephard booster experienced an anomaly one minute into its flight.

Logan Ware, Blue Origin’s commercial director for Europe, Middle East and Africa, told The National that demand was “still very high” globally despite the incident.

“We’ve flown Hamish Harding, the first one from the UAE, so we’re absolutely interested in finding the other inspired individuals that want to go to space,” he said.

“And what we're excited about is New Shepard as a flight opportunity and having that overview effect and what we like is for that experience to then have a positive impact on the world.”

Hamish Harding, a British entrepreneur who has lived in the UAE for nearly three decades, flew on a New Shepard flight in June.

He did not reveal how much he paid for the flight, but said that space tourism would become more accessible to the wider public once the cost of a ticket is equal to a sports car.

“The prices are already reasonable in a sense. They're coming down to a level where I think there'll be more like a Chrysler sports car or something that many people can aspire to,” said Mr Harding.

“I think when it reaches the price of a good sports car, then that's probably much more achievable for lots of people to aspire to.”

He shared his flight experience with the audience and also spoke about having the “overview effect”, often described by astronauts as a powerful shift in how a person views the planet and life.

“It really does change people's lives, going into space, from a perspective point of view of how you see the Earth and it has changed most people's lives,” said Mr Harding.

Star Trek actor William Shatner, who flew on Blue Origin’s second space tourism flight, also describes the overview effect he experienced in his book Boldly Go: Reflections on a Life of Awe and Wonder. An excerpt of it was published in Variety last month.

“It was among the strongest feelings of grief I have ever encountered,” he said.

“The contrast between the vicious coldness of space and the warm nurturing of Earth below filled me with overwhelming sadness.

“Every day, we are confronted with the knowledge of further destruction of Earth at our hands: the extinction of animal species, of flora and fauna … things that took five billion years to evolve and suddenly we will never see them again because of the interference of mankind.

“It filled me with dread. My trip to space was supposed to be a celebration. Instead, it felt like a funeral.”

Updated: November 15, 2022, 9:11 AM
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