Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is set to launch to the edge of space on Tuesday, fulfilling a lifelong dream and ushering in a new era of space tourism via the first crewed flight from his private space-faring firm Blue Origin.
The billionaire, who stepped down as Amazon CEO earlier this month, opened up about the historic spaceflight in an interview with ABC News' "Good Morning America" on Monday.
"I have just been dreaming of this really my whole life, but I don't know what it's going to mean for me," Bezos told ABC News' Michael Strahan. "I don't know, I'm very curious about what tomorrow is actually going to bring. Everybody who's been to space says it changes them in some way. And I'm just really excited to figure out how it's going to change me."
"People say they see the thin limb of the Earth's atmosphere, it teaches them how fragile and precious the planet is, how there are there no boundaries," Bezos added. "I don't know what it's going to do but I'm excited to find out."
Bezos will be joined on the historic journey by his brother, Mark Bezos. The other members of the crew include 82-year old Wally Funk, a pioneering female pilot whose dreams of being an astronaut in the 60s were deferred, and 18-year-old Oliver Daemen, a student from the Netherlands. Funk and Daemen are set to become the oldest and youngest people ever to go to space.
Funk told "GMA" that she trained not only in the U.S., but also with Russian cosmonauts during the original U.S.-Soviet Space Race era.
"About about two or three weeks after my training ... I was told that I did better than the men," she said. At the time, however, women were not being sent into space.
Bezos quipped that she is still "doing better than the men" when it comes to astronaut training. "She can outrun all of us, she’s 82-years-old and she can outrun all of us," he said.
Daemon, meanwhile, said he hopes to set an example for other young people curious about space travel, but admitted it still feels surreal.
"I don’t think I’ve realized yet how special it is to become the youngest person ever, and it's such an opportunity for me to do that," he told Strahan. "And also to be an example for other kids."
"It's so amazing for me to go, I still can’t believe it," the teen added.
With the launch less than one day away, Bezos said he is excited but not nervous, citing the successful test flights. He chose the date because it is the 52nd anniversary of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin's moon landing on July 20, 1969.
The inaugural crewed flight for Blue Origin is set to launch Tuesday morning from west Texas. In total, the flight is only about 11 minutes, and approximately four minutes will be spent above the so-called Karman line that is defined by some as the boundary between Earth's atmosphere and outer space.
Bezos said the goal is ultimately to pave the way for future astronauts and make visits to space as commonplace as flying on a commercial jetliner.
"What we're hoping to do is to build the road to space for the future generations," Bezos said, adding that Blue Origin's goal has been to make reusable launch vehicles and spacecraft that make space less costly and more accessible for all.
"If we can get to that stage, then the things that the next generations will figure out how to do in space, how to benefit Earth with all those things in space ... that'll be amazing to see, so that's the real goal," he said.
Bezos' flight comes on the heels of a brief, successful spaceflight from Sir Richard Branson's firm Virgin Galactic earlier this month. The back-to-back missions are seen as ushering in a new era of space tourism that has been propelled by an emerging, billionaire-backed commercial space industry.
The modern space race from the ultra-wealthy comes at a time, however, when the pandemic has only deepened the divide between the haves and have-nots -- meaning not everyone is rooting for the billionaires heading to space the way Americans got behind astronauts in the Apollo era. A Change.org petition calling for Bezos to stay in space has garnered headlines and more than 150,000 signatures.