Science

Blue Origin launches Michael Strahan and his crew of 5 on a record-setting suborbital spaceflight

VAN HORN, Texas – Blue Origin successfully launched its first six-person crew into space on Saturday (December 11) and, in the process, set six new space records.

From the tallest person to fly into space to the first parent-child pair to take off together, the six newly qualified astronauts made history aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket. The crew included former soccer star-turned-television host Michael Strahan and Laura Shepard Churchley, the eldest daughter of Alan Shepard, the first American astronaut to fly into space and the namesake of Blue Origin’s suborbital launch vehicle.

Strahan said the experience was incredible. “I want to go back,” he told Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos after returning to Earth. “Touchdown has a new meaning now !!!” wrote on Twitter after the flight.

“It was surreal … it was unbelievable, it’s hard to even describe,” Strahan said in a post-flight Twitter video. “It’s going to take a bit of processing, but it couldn’t have gone better.”

Taking off at 10 a.m. EST (1500 GMT) from Blue Origin Launch Site One here in Van Horn, Texas, the single-stage New Shepard rocket lifted the crew into a 10-minute flight that rose just above of the internationally recognized boundary between Earth and Earth. space. Strahan and Churchley, along with paying passengers Dylan Taylor, Evan Dick and Lane and Cameron Bess, experienced about three minutes of weightlessness as they gazed at our planet from 65 miles up (106 km).

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Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket launches a crew of six, including Good Morning America's Michael Strahan, on a suborbital flight from launch site one near Van Horn, Texas, on December 11, 2021.

(Image credit: Patrick T. Fallon / AFP via Getty Images)

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New Shepard rocket and Blue Origin crew capsule launch NS-19 space tourism flight with Good Morning America co-host Michael Strahan, Laura Shepard Churchley, Dylan Taylor, Evan Dick and Lane and Cameron Bess on board on 11 December 2021 near Van Horn, Texas.

The New Shepard thruster approaches its landing pad after the successful launch. (Image credit: Blue Origin)

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New Shepard rocket and Blue Origin crew capsule launch NS-19 space tourism flight with Good Morning America co-host Michael Strahan, Laura Shepard Churchley, Dylan Taylor, Evan Dick and Lane and Cameron Bess on board on 11 December 2021 near Van Horn, Texas.

The New Shepard crew capsule is seen under its main parachutes as it returns NS-19 space tourists to Earth after a successful launch from Blue Origin launch site one near Van Horn, Texas on December 11. of 2021. (Image credit: Blue Origin)

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New Shepard rocket and Blue Origin crew capsule launch NS-19 space tourism flight with Good Morning America co-host Michael Strahan, Laura Shepard Churchley, Dylan Taylor, Evan Dick and Lane and Cameron Bess on board on 11 December 2021 near Van Horn, Texas.

The landing of Blue Origin’s New Shepard space capsule on the NS-19 space tourism mission. (Image credit: Blue Origin)

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New Shepard rocket and Blue Origin crew capsule launch NS-19 space tourism flight with Good Morning America co-host Michael Strahan, Laura Shepard Churchley, Dylan Taylor, Evan Dick and Lane and Cameron Bess on board on 11 December 2021 near Van Horn, Texas.

A member of the Blue Origin NS-19 crew gives a thumbs up after landing back on Earth. (Image credit: Blue Origin)

The crew capsule, dubbed “First Step RSS”, then descended back to the ground, using three large parachutes and a last-second burst of air from the downward-facing thrusters to slow down and cushion the landing. Jeff Bezos, the former CEO of Amazon and founder of Blue Origin, was on hand to welcome all six to Earth and introduce each of them to their Blue Origin astronaut wings.

At 6 feet 5 inches tall (196 cm), Strahan set a new record as the tallest person to fly into space. The Super Bowl champion who is now a co-host of “Good Morning America” ​​on ABC surpassed the previous Guinness World Record by one inch, which until now was held by NASA astronauts James “Ox” van Hoften and James Wetherbee. .

The Blue Origin New Shepard 19 (NS-19) team, from left: Dylan Taylor, Lane Bess, Cameron Bess, Laura Shepard Churchley, Michael Strahan and Evan Dick. (Image credit: Blue Origin)

Blue Origin paid Strahan a stipend to fly as a crew member on the mission, which he in turn donated to The Boys & Girls Club. Strahan isn’t the first television news personality to fly into space – that distinction goes to Toyohiro Akiyama, who took to the Russian space station Mir as a correspondent for the Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS) in 1990 – but Strahan is the first journalist. in flying. a suborbital space flight.

Strahan is also now the first black person to fly suborbital spaceflight out of 38 people who have now made the jump into space and back. (Sixteen black astronauts and cosmonauts have flown higher and faster and Strahan on missions that went into Earth orbit.)

The record-setting NS-19 astronauts, Laura Shepard Churchley, the first daughter of an American astronaut to fly into space, and Michael Strahan, the tallest person in space. (Image credit: Blue Origin)

The first person to launch into suborbital spaceflight was Churchley’s father, Alan Shepard, who took off 60 years ago on May 5, 1961. (Blue Origin’s New Shepard vehicle is named after Alan Shepard). Churchley is now the second, second generation American astronaut and first daughter of a space traveler who left the planet. Churchley flew as a guest of Blue Origin.

“I feel a bit like I’m following in my father’s footsteps,” Churchley said in a Blue Origin video.

After the launch, Strahan said Churchley exclaimed “Let’s light this candle!” in a wink to his father, who said the same words before launching into his Freedom 7 Mercury mission.

Lane and Cameron Bess are now the first parent-child couple to fly into space together, having launched on Blue Origin’s New Shepard 19 (NS-19) suborbital spaceflight. (Image credit: Blue Origin)

Venture capitalist Lane Bess and his descendant Cameron became the first parents and children to fly into space together. Cameron, a Twitch and YouTube content creator, is also the first pansexual to launch himself off Earth.

“It is certainly an honor to be one of the first LGBTQ + people in space,” said Cameron Bess in the Blue Origin crew video.

Taylor, president and CEO of the space exploration company Voyager Space and founder of the non-profit organization Space for Humanity, and Dick, an engineer and volunteer investor as a Starfighters Aerospace pilot, rounded out the crew of the New Shepard 19 (NS -19). .

Strahan flew in seat no. 1, making him the 604th person to fly above 50 miles (80 km), the American definition of where space begins. Churchley, Taylor, Lane Bess, Cameron Bess, and Dick are now 605 to 609 people to fly, respectively.

The NS-19 mission marked the fifth flight of each of the RSS First Step capsule and its reusable booster. It was the 19th successful flight of the New Shepard since 2015, the sixth flight of the year and the third launch with humans on board.

Blue Origin dedicated Saturday’s launch to former passenger Glen DeVries, who died in a plane crash on November 11, less than a month after launching into space on the company’s passenger flight NS-18 with actor William Shatner and other two.

“His passion and dedication will not be forgotten,” Blue Origin wrote in a statement. “Ad astra Glen”.

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