Bezos’ Blue Origin sends Strahan, five others to space

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin sent another crew to space on Saturday (12/11/21), the company’s third human spaceflight and the first with a full contingent of six people.  The launch capped a historic year for space exploration and marked the 13th human spaceflight mission this year – more than any other year.  On board the New Shepard spacecraft were four paying customers and two guests – Laura Shepard Churchley, the daughter of Alan Shepard, the first American in space, and Michael Strahan, the former NFL football star turned TV personality. The autonomous flight lifted off at 10:01 a.m. Eastern time and reached an altitude of just over 67 miles before returning to a soft landing in the West Texas desert. Total flight time was 10 minutes and 13 seconds. It was the third time Blue Origin has flown people just past the edge of space, further affirmation that it has built a robust space tourism business capable of regularly taking paying customers higher than 60 miles where many believe the edge of space begins. Next year, Blue Origin is planning to fly more than six times, or every other month, creating a regular cadence of spaceflights. The flights are relatively short, suborbital jaunts that shoot straight up into space, where the passengers get a few minutes of weightlessness and see the Earth from above. William Shatner, the actor who portrayed Captain Kirk on Star Trek, rhapsodized about the view after his flight in October, telling Bezos that he was “so filled with emotion about what just happened. It’s extraordinary. I hope I never recover from this.” The crew of Saturday’s flight also included Dylan Taylor, chairman and CEO of space exploration firm Voyager Space; Evan Dick, an investor, and Lane and Cameron Bess, the first parent-child pair to fly to space. After their capsule touched down in the desert, they were also emotional, laughing and cheering. The flight came during a year in which a large number of private citizens have gone to space. Blue Origin has now flown 14 people. SpaceX also flew four private citizens in orbit for three days in September in what was called the Inspiration4 mission. Russia flew an actress and film producer to the International Space Station this fall, and earlier this week it launched a Japanese billionaire and his assistant to the station. Earlier this month, Blue Origin won a NASA contract worth $130 million to develop the design of a space station that would ultimately replace the International Space Station. NASA also awarded contracts to two other companies: Nanoracks, for $160 million, and Northrop Grumman, for $125.6 million.