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The Margin: Want to bid on a trip to space? You probably need a $10,000 deposit, at least

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Here’s your chance to bid on a trip to space this summer — and serious bidders should be ready to burn through some serious cash. 

Blue Origin, Amazon
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CEO Jeff Bezos’s space venture, launched an online auction on Wednesday for a shot at scoring the first seat on its first suborbital sightseeing flight aboard the New Shepard spacecraft. The launch scheduled for July 20, which also marks the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, will carry six passengers above the Kármán Line, aka the internationally recognized boundary of space more than 62 miles above the Earth. 

The announcement coincided with the 60th anniversary of astronaut Alan Shepard making history as the first American to go into space — which came three weeks after the Soviet Union sent Yuri Gagarin into the cosmos in 1961. Since then, only 579 people have voyaged into space or reached its edges, according to NASA.

But now the space tourism race is seriously heating up. 

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CEO Elon Musk’s SpaceX plans to launch its first all-civilian flight into Earth’s orbit this fall, and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic
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plans to launch its tourist flights next year. Now Blue Origin is giving anyone a shot at becoming “one of the first 600 astronauts in history,” it claims in a video promoting the auction, by offering a place among the New Shepard’s first astronaut crew to the highest bidder. The money raised will benefit its Club for the Future foundation, whose mission is to inspire future generations to pursue STEM careers so that they can “do something extraordinary up there” in outer space some day.

The online auction will be conducted in three parts. From now until May 19, the aspiring astronauts will compete in a sealed online pre-bidding war, which means the bids won’t be visible. Sign up here to register and place your opening bid. Then on May 19, the bids will become visible, and participants must top the highest one to win. And this all culminates on June 12 with a live online auction to determine the winner. 

Related: SpaceX successfully launches, lands Starship for first time

So how high are these bids expected to fly? Well, Blue Origin notes on its frequently-asked-questions page that anyone wishing to bid more than $50,000 will need to undergo a verification process and put down a refundable $10,000 deposit, if that gives you any idea. And a 2018 Reuters report noted that Blue Origin was planning to charge passengers at least $200,000 each, once its civilian trips to space took flight. So it’s safe to say that while this seat on the New Shepard is open for anyone to bid upon, actually landing the coveted spot is a moonshot for those with six figures or more to spend. 

Indeed, Virgin Galactic has said it will charge $250,000 for its reservations, the Associated Press reported, although it has not announced final pricing.

You think that’s astronomical? The U.S., Canadian and Israeli entrepreneurs scheduled to fly in a 1½-week SpaceX mission early next year are reportedly paying $55 million apiece for the privilege.

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