He was accompanied by Mark Bezos, his brother, Wally Funk, an 82-year-old pioneer of the space race, and an 18-year-old student.

They travelled in a capsule with the biggest windows flown in space, offering stunning views of the Earth.

When the capsule touched back down after the 10-minute, 10-second flight, Jeff Bezos exclaimed: “Best day ever!”

New Shepard, built by Bezos’ company Blue Origin, is designed to serve the burgeoning market for space tourism among the super-wealthy.

On this flight was the oldest person who has been to space – Ms Funk – and the youngest, student Oliver Daemen.

The spacecraft lifted off at 14:12 BST (09:12 EDT) from a private launch site near Van Horn, Texas.

Two minutes into the flight, the capsule separated from its rocket and continued upwards towards the Karman Line – the most widely recognised boundary of space that lies 100km up. The newly minted-astronauts shouted “wow!” and cheered.

The post-flight briefing was shown video of the occupants performing somersaults and tumbles during four minutes of weightlessness. Stunning views of the Earth could be seen outside.

Jeff Bezos said he was surprised by the sensation of microgravity: “It felt so normal,” he explained.

Ms Funk added: “It was great, I loved it, I can hardly wait to go again.”
In the 1960s, Ms Funk was one member of a group of women called the Mercury 13. They underwent the same screening tests as male astronauts, but never got to fly into space.
Mr Bezos told CBS News on Monday: “Wally can outrun all of us. During the Mercury 13, she was better than all the men and I can guarantee that’s still true today.”

Bezos said he was struck by the views of our “fragile” world, adding how important it was that the Earth was protected from ongoing damage. He also said New Shepard used “environmentally benign” propellants.

Indeed, Bezos and his business rival Sir Richard Branson, who flew high above the Earth in his spaceplane on 11 July, have been on the receiving end of a wave of criticism in recent days. The critics argue that the money for space could be spent on tackling climate change, or increasing the salaries of the billionaires’ employees.

Branson has pointed out that satellites are monitoring “the degradation of the rainforests, monitoring food distribution – even things like climate change”.

Bezos, meanwhile, has previously said he wants to move all heavy industry off the Earth, protecting the planet by turning it into a “national park”.