Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture sent six more crew members on a suborbital space flight, including the first Egyptian and Portuguese citizens to reach the final frontier.
Thanks to today’s flight from Launch Site One in West Texas, Blue Origin’s roster of astronauts has grown to 31 in just over a year. Bezos himself went on the first manned flight in July 2021, and Florida investor Evan Dick bought two tickets to space.
The lineup for NS-22—the 22nd mission for the New Shepard suborbital launch system, and the sixth crew—set a couple of precedents.
Portugal’s first astronaut is Mario Ferreira, an entrepreneur, investor and president of Porto-based Pluris Investments. The first from Egypt is Sara Sabry, a mechanical and biomedical engineer who founded a non-profit organization called the Deep Space Initiative. Sabry was the second Blue Origin crew member sponsored by Space for Humanity, a non-profit organization that supports citizen astronauts.
Rounding out the “Titanium Feather” crew were Coby Cotton, co-founder of the Dude Perfect sports/entertainment channel; Vanessa O’Brien, a British-American explorer and former bank executive; Clint Kelly III, who helped pioneer driverless car technologies; and Steve Young, former CEO of Young’s Communications LLC.
Cotton’s seat was sponsored by MoonDAO, a cryptocentric collective that aims to decentralize access to space. Although Blue Origin does not disclose how much its spaceflight planes pay for their flights, crypto experts estimated that MoonDAO devoted about 1.25 million dollars to Cotton’s plane.
Today’s flight followed the routine established by the previous five crewed missions: Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket blasted off at 8:56 a.m. CT (6:56 a.m. PT), sending the crew capsule beyond the 100-kilometer-long Karman. Line marking the internationally accepted boundary of outer space. The maximum elevation was 351,232 feet (66.5 miles, or 107 kilometers) above mean sea level.
During the highest phase of the orbit, the six astronauts unhooked from their seats for a few minutes to float in zero-G and look out at the curved Earth through the capsule’s picture windows. Crew members could be heard over a comm link cheering the experience.
New Shepard’s reusable booster made an autonomous landing on a pad near the launch site. Meanwhile, the crew capsule floated down separately to the Texas Rangeland on the end of the parachutes. “We’re not going to die!” Cotton said half jokingly as the parachutes opened.
The flight took 10 minutes and 20 seconds from launch to landing.
Blue Origin’s NS-22 mission was part of a one-day launch trifecta that also included Rocket Lab’s launch of a classified National Reconnaissance Office satellite mission and United Launch Alliance’s launch of a Space Force missile warning satellite. SpaceX could turn the trifecta into a quadfecta later today with the planned launch of a South Korean lunar probe.