Blue Origin is gearing up for its third crewed flight to the edge of space, with the mission set to carry six people — two more than its previous crewed missions.
Scheduled for Thursday, December 9, the crew of Blue Origin’s next suborbital space flight will include a couple of special guests, namely Laura Shepard Churchley, the eldest daughter of Alan Shepard, who was the first American to fly to space; and Good Morning America co-anchor Michael Strahan.
Joining them aboard the capsule will be space industry executive and philanthropist Dylan Taylor, investor Evan Dick, and Bess Ventures founder Lane Bess and his son Cameron, with Lane and Cameron set to become the first parent-child pair to fly together to space.
Shepard Churchley and Strahan are described by Blue Origin as “honorary guests,” while the others appear to be paying customers, though how much they’ve forked out for the trip of a lifetime hasn’t been revealed.
Blue Origin’s single-stage rocket that will transport the crew to the edge of space is called New Shepard in honor of Alan Shepard’s achievement.
“It’s kind of fun for me to say, ‘An original Shepard will fly on the New Shepard,’” Laura said in a video shared by Blue Origin, adding, “I’m very proud of my father’s legacy. He was the first American in space and the fifth man on the moon and so far has been the only man to play golf on the moon.”
GMA co-anchor Strahan, who was at the launch site in Texas for the New Shepard’s first crewed flight in July that included Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos, recently reported on the preparations he’s been making for the 10-minute trip that will see the crew travel to the Kármán line, the location 62 miles above Earth that’s generally regarded as the edge of space.
Asked why he accepted Blue Origin’s invitation to fly aboard the New Shepard, Strahan said, “I do believe that [Blue Origin] will bring a lot of technological breakthroughs and also innovation to us here on Earth and I just wanted to be a part of it.”
Blue Origin is moving toward the launch of a regular commercial space tourism service, though scientists and students will also be able to use the flights to carry out experiments in microgravity conditions.
Bezos’s company is competing with the likes of Virgin Galactic for short trips to the edge of space. Offering seats to high-profile guests is a simple way for the company to get plenty of publicity for its upcoming service. Its second crewed flight in October included Star Trek legend William Shatner.
Meanwhile, SpaceX is looking to launch a commercial service for longer orbital flights following a successful test mission in September that put four civilians into space for three days.