Blue Origin’s sixth crewed spaceflight is in the books.
The company’s New Shepard suborbital vehicle carried six people to the final frontier this morning (Aug. 4), including a few who notched spaceflight firsts.
New Shepard lifted off from Blue Origin’s West Texas site at 9:58 a.m. EDT (1358 GMT) and was back on Earth about 10 minutes later. Though the mission was brief, its crewmembers walked away with memories that will last a lifetime.
“Woo-hoo! We’re not going to die. Our poor families,” joked one of the passengers as the New Shepard vehicle descended safely under its parachutes to the Texas desert.
In photos: Blue Origin’s 1st New Shepard passenger launch with Jeff Bezos
The six folks on board were Coby Cotton, one of the founders of the popular YouTube channel Dude Perfect; Mário Ferreira and Sara Sabry, who became the first people from Portugal and Egypt, respectively, to reach space; technology pioneer Clint Kelly III; telecommunications executive (not former NFL quarterback) Steve Young; and Vanessa O’Brien.
NS-22 made O’Brien the first woman ever to complete the “explorers’ extreme trifecta,” according to a Blue Origin mission description (opens in new tab). She has now reached space, climbed the world’s tallest mountain (Mt. Everest) and descended to the deepest point in the ocean (the Pacific’s Challenger Deep).
Cotton and Sabry didn’t have to pay for their ride today; their seats were sponsored by the nonprofits MoonDAO and Space for Humanity, respectively.
MoonDAO wants to decentralize access to space, with the long-term goal of creating “a self-sustaining, self-governing colony on the moon to act as a launch point for humanity to explore the cosmos,” according to the organization’s website (opens in new tab). Cotton won a MoonDAO contest to get aboard NS-22.
Space for Humanity (opens in new tab) is working to increase our species’ access to space. Part of the organization’s strategy involves sponsoring “citizen astronauts,” a group of exceptional people who will do their best to share with those of us who’ve never left Earth the life-changing perspective shift that spaceflight imparts. Sabry is the second citizen astronaut to fly with Blue Origin, after Katya Echazarreta, a crewmember who launched on NS-21 in June.
Ferreira, Kelly, Young and O’Brien apparently paid their own way to space today. But it’s unclear how much they had to shell out; Blue Origin has not revealed New Shepard ticket prices. For comparison, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin’s chief competitor in the suborbital space tourism industry, currently charges $450,000 for a seat on its VSS Unity space plane. (VSS Unity has flown to space four times but is not yet fully operational.)
You can read more about all six of today’s spaceflyers in our NS-22 crewmembers story.
NS-22 was the sixth human spaceflight for Blue Origin. The first, in July 2021, sent company founder Jeff Bezos to space along with his brother Mark, aviation pioneer Wally Funk and student Oliver Daemen. New Shepard flew two more crewed flights in 2021 and has now flown three of them in 2022.
New Shepard is a reusable, fully automated rocket-capsule combo. The rocket returns to Earth for a vertical powered landing close to the launch site, and the capsule comes down under parachutes shortly thereafter. Passengers aboard the vehicle get to see the curve of Earth against the blackness of space and experience a few minutes of weightlessness.
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 alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab).