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Amazon chief's spaceship fails to deliver

An unmanned rocket funded by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos goes out of control and has to be put down in midair.

A spaceship in not like a book.

When you invest in a book at an online retailer, you expect it to arrive at its destination with all its information intact. But when you invest in a spaceship, you know there's a chance it could blow up, veer off course, float off into space, or simply fail to communicate with you ever again (not unlike some love affairs and lovers you might care to forget).

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos surely knew this when he invested some of his well-gotten cash into a spaceship developed by Blue Origin LLC.

Still, it's sad to hear from The Wall Street Journal that the spacecraft--which doesn't appear to have enjoyed a natty name like Freda--suffered "flight instability" and had to be put down.

The rocket before its mishap. Blue Origin

Having been propelled from Blue Origin's West Texas launch pad, the spacecraft was at a mere 45,000 feet when, for reasons unknown, it decided to go off-piste while going faster than the speed of sound.

There is some speculation that its thrusters weren't responding to commands, which left the ground staff little option but to destroy it and then examine the wreckage that returned to earth.

The spacecraft enjoyed an interesting design. It took off vertically and (should have) landed vertically too.

As with so much else in the United States, the nation is putting all of its faith in private enterprise to take us up to the moon and the stars. Indeed, Blue Origin is one of four commercial entities that are partnering with NASA in order to keep celestial dreams alive.

Bezos appears undeterred by the misfire. In a message on the Blue Origin site, he wrote: "Not the outcome any of us wanted, but we're signed up for this to be hard, and the Blue Origin team is doing an outstanding job. We're already working on our next development vehicle."

He ended his note with the clarion call "Gradatim Ferociter!" For those who managed to avoid Latin (or school in general), this doesn't mean: "We're getting madder and madder." Rather, it offers a sense that the company is moving step-by-step, but with a certain ferociousness toward the future.

Not unlike, some might say, Amazon itself.