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Americans are taking tourism high above the ordinary as many are queueing up for the journey to space, sixty years after Alan Shepard became the first American in space, and the second person in space after the Soviet Union launched cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin three weeks earlier.

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin used Wednesday’s anniversary to kick off an auction for a seat on the company’s first crew spaceflight — a short Shepard-like hop launched by a rocket named New Shepard. The Texas liftoff is targeted for July 20, the date of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic aims to kick off tourist flights next year, just as soon as he straps into his space-skimming, plane-launched rocketship for a test run from the New Mexico base.

And Elon Musk’s SpaceX will launch a billionaire and his sweepstakes winners in September. That will be followed by a flight by three businessmen to the International Space Station in January.

“We’ve always enjoyed this incredible thing called space, but we always want more people to be able to experience it as well,” NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough said from the space station Wednesday. “So I think this is a great step in the right direction.”

Since Gagarin and Shepard’s pioneering flights, 579 people have rocketed into space or reached its fringes, according to NASA.  

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