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'Road to space': Bezos completes historic launch

Jeff Bezos, the richest man on Earth, became the richest man to visit space on Tuesday, after he and three other crew members soared more than 66 miles high aboard his company Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket, a historic unpiloted, suborbital flight that helps to inaugurate a new era of private commercial space tourism.

BEZOS: "Best day ever!"

The 57-year-old American billionaire emerged from the space capsule after safely touching down in the Texas desert wearing a blue flight suit and a cowboy hat.

Bezos exchanged hugs with his crew, which included his brother Mark, 82-year-old pioneering female aviator Wally Funk and teenaged physics student Oliver Daemen, Blue Origin's first paying customer.

At 18 years old, Daemen became the youngest person to reach space, while Funk became the oldest, after training to become a NASA astronaut in the early 1960s but was passed over because of her gender.

FUNK: "I've been waiting a long time. I want to go again - fast."

Bezos, who recently stepped down as CEO of Amazon, thanked employees and customers of the company he founded, telling a news conference that their hard work and Amazon purchases had made his space flight possible.

BEZOS: "I want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer, because you guys paid for all of this."

His trip to the edge of space lasted about 10 minutes and 20 seconds, including a few minutes of weightlessness.

BEZOS: "We're going to build a road to space so that our kids and their kids can build a future."

Bezos described the company's very first crewed space flight as a step toward an ambitious future, and is planning two more passenger flights this year.

Tuesday's mission was part of a fiercely competitive battle between Bezos and British billionaire Richard Branson, who just nine days earlier successfully flew to the edge of space aboard his competing space tourism company Virgin Galactic's spaceplane.

Both men, as well as fellow billionaire Elon Musk, are aiming to tap a potentially lucrative space tourism market, which Swiss bank UBS estimates will be worth $3 billion annually in a decade.

Musk plans to send an all-civilian crew on a several-day orbital mission on his Crew Dragon capsule in September, but the electric vehicle mogul had no plans to climb aboard himself as of yet.