Blue Origin now has five manned spaceflights under its belt.
Jeff Bezos’ The company sent six people into suborbital space today (June 4) to complete its fifth manned spaceflight mission, completing several milestones along the way.
The action started at 9:25 am EDT (1325 GMT), as Blue Origin’s New shepherd The vehicle took off from Launch Site One, the company’s West Texas facility, approximately 25 miles (40 kilometers) from the city of Van Horn.
It was all over a little over 10 minutes later when the New Shepard capsule and its six passengers landed under parachutes, kicking up a cloud of desert dust as they hit the ground. During the flight, the crew reached an altitude of 347,538 feet (106 kilometers) above the ground.
Related: Mission NS-21 from Blue Origin (Reference)
New Shepard consists of a rocket and a capsule, both of which are reusable. The booster comes down just ahead of the capsule and makes vertical landings as SpaceX’s first stage falcon 9 orbital rockets do.
Today’s flight was 21st overall for Blue Origin and New Shepard, which explains the mission name: NS-21. It was the company’s second manned flight this year after NS-20, which took off and landed on March 31.
The other three manned New Shepard flights took place in July, October and December of last year. Engineer and investor Evan Dick was one of the crew members on that December flight known as NS-19. And he flew again today on NS-21, becoming New Shepard’s first ever repeat passenger.
NS-20 crew members left messages for the capsule communicator to read to the crew prior to flight. In addition, Apollo astronaut Charlie Duke, who flew on the Apollo 16 mission 50 years ago this year and served as the capsule communicator on Apollo 11, sat in mission control before the flight to wish the NS-21 crew well .
“Congratulations on that flight you’re about to embark on,” Duke said.
“I know you’re going to have an exciting adventure, just like I did 50 years ago,” he added. “Have a safe trip and I look forward to seeing you when you return.
Several other NS-21 firsts came courtesy of crew member Katya Echazarreta, a 26-year-old science communicator who was the first Mexican-born woman and the youngest American to ever reach space.
The seat of Echazarreta was sponsored by the non-profit organization Space For Humanity, which seeks to expand our species’ access to space. She is the first of Space For Humanity’s “citizen-astronauts” to reach the final frontier. (However, their work for the group is not over; citizen astronauts are expected to help implement the positive aspects of the overview effect — the perspective shift that comes with seeing our planet from above — here on Earth after they land.)
The other four passengers on the NS-21 were civil engineer Victor Correa Hespanha, the second Brazilian to reach space; Jaison Robinson, who was a 2009 finalist on the TV show Survivor: Samoa and later co-founded a company called Dream Variations Ventures; Victor Vescovo, an accomplished researcher who co-founded private equity investment firm Insight Equity; and Hamish Harding, chairman of business jet brokerage firm Action Aviation, who is also an explorer and adventurer and holds multiple world records in aviation.
You can read more about all of them in our The history of the NS-21 crew members.
Like Echazarreta, Correa Hespanha flew at someone else’s expense; his seat was sponsored by the Crypto Space Agency (opens in new tab). The other four passengers on the NS-21 apparently paid for their own fare, but it’s unclear how much they had to shell out; Blue Origin has not disclosed its ticket prices.
For perspective: The company’s main competitor in the suborbital space tourism industry, Richard Branson Virgo Galactic, is currently charging $450,000 for a seat on his VSS Unity spaceplane. VSS Unity has flown four times to date but has not yet carried any paying customers. Virgin Galactic plans to begin full commercial passenger operations with the vehicle in early 2023.
NS-21 was originally scheduled to launch on May 20, but Blue Origin delayed launch to investigate a possible problem with one of New Shepard’s backup systems.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out there (opens in new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaelwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab).