Amazon founder Jeff Bezos said he and his crew were "incredibly excited" a day ahead of their historic flight into space Tuesday.
"I can't wait to see what it's going to be like. People who go into space say that they come back changed," Bezos told "TODAY" show co-host Hoda Kotb on Monday. "I can't wait to see what it's going to do to me."
Bezos will attempt to fly to space Tuesday aboard a rocket and capsule developed by Blue Origin, his private space company. It will be the first crewed launch for Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket, and if successful, Bezos will make history for taking part in the first unpiloted suborbital flight with a civilian crew.
Bezos will be joined by one passenger who stands to become the oldest person to reach space and another who would be the youngest.
Wally Funk, 82, is a former test pilot who was one of the Mercury 13 women who underwent training in the 1960s to demonstrate that women could meet NASA’s standards for its astronaut corps. At 18, the Dutch teenager Oliver Daemen could become the youngest astronaut. And rounding out the four-person crew is Bezos' brother, Mark.
Bezos praised Funk, 82, saying that she can "still outperform all of the men."
Daemen said he was in disbelief ahead of the space launch, adding that the entire crew underwent multiple flight simulations to prepare for the trip.
The New Shepard rocket will launch from a site in the west Texas desert, southeast of El Paso, just over a week after billionaire Richard Branson flew to the edge of space.
When asked about Branson, Bezos said it wasn't a competition.
"This is about building a road to space, so that future generations can do incredible things in space," he said.
Bezos and Branson have faced backlash for their private spaceflight aspirations, with some criticizing the billionaire entrepreneurs for investing in frivolous, self-serving ventures.
In response to critics, Bezos said: "Of course, people will say, 'Look we have so many problems here on Earth,' and they're right — we need to do both."
"We need to focus on now and on the future," he said.
Since the rocket launch is a suborbital flight, the capsule will not enter into orbit around Earth, but will instead reach the edge of space, at an altitude of around 65 miles, where passengers will experience several minutes of weightlessness.
The capsule will then descend under parachutes and land again in the Texas desert — amounting to an entire journey that is expected to last roughly 10 minutes.
The launch is an important step for Blue Origin, which is banking on a future market for high-priced joyrides to space. It is hoping to begin operational flights with paying passengers in the near future, and while the company has not announced the price of individual tickets, they are expected to cost several hundreds of thousands of dollars.