Jeff Bezos’ spaceflight company Blue Origin plans to launch its fourth crewed mission on March 29.
One longtime Blue Origin employee and five paying customers are scheduled to fly to suborbital space aboard the company’s New Shepard vehicle. The mission is called NS-20, because it will be the 20th flight (crewed or uncrewed) of a New Shepard craft.
Liftoff is targeted for 9:30 a.m. EDT (1330 GMT) from Blue Origin’s launch facility in West Texas. You can watch it here at Space.com, courtesy of Blue Origin, or follow the action via the company’s website and social media accounts.
Here are mini-biographies of the six spaceflyers going up on March 29, courtesy of information provided by Blue Origin.
In photos: Blue Origin’s 1st New Shepard passenger launch with Jeff Bezos
Gary Lai is the chief architect of the New Shepard system, a reusable rocket-capsule combo. He joined Blue Origin in 2004 and was one of its first 20 employees. (Bezos founded the company in 2000.) In addition to his New Shepard work, over the course of his career, Lai “has been involved in product development, strategic planning, and business development for all Blue Origin product lines, including the New Glenn orbital launch vehicle, rocket engine programs and [the lunar lander] Blue Moon,” Blue Origin representatives wrote in an NS-20 mission description.
Lai came aboard as a replacement for “Saturday Night Live” star Pete Davidson, who backed out after NS-20 was delayed from March 23 to March 29. Davidson was getting a free ride, and it’s a safe bet that Lai isn’t paying for his trip, either. (His five crewmates are paying customers.)
Sharon Hagle is the founder of SpaceKids Global, a nonprofit that was established in 2015 to encourage students, especially girls, to push forward their STEAM (science, technology, education, art and math) education and pursue careers in space. SpaceKids is also a participant in “Postcards to Space,” a program run by Blue Origin’s nonprofit organization Club for the Future.
Marty Allen is a past CEO and a current angel investor and mentor. He was the former CEO of the California Closet Company, which provides custom home storage ideas, along with Party America, which is now a nationwide retailer. His tenure at Party America included bringing the company through bankruptcy restructuring.
Marc Hagle, husband of Sharon, is president and CEO of the property development corporation Tricor International. The company has developed and owned more than 17.4 million square feet (1.6 million square meters) of shopping centers, warehouses, medical facilities and other types of property in the United States. The Hagles are also philanthropists, contributing to numerous charities in the arts, sciences, health and education.
Jim Kitchen is a faculty member of the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, and an entrepreneur. His Blue Origin biography describes him as “a space dreamer since watching NASA’s Apollo rocket launches in Florida as a child.” In the early 1980s, Kitchen promoted low Earth orbital trips for an unnamed startup. He also has visited all 193 countries recognized by the United Nations.
George Nield is president of Commercial Space Technologies, LLC, which seeks to broaden commercial space activities. He has held many roles in the space world over his career. He was manager of the flight integration office for NASA’s space shuttle program, for example, and also served as associate administrator for the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation, which regulates commercial launch activities. He also held positions at the Air Force Flight Test Center, Orbital Sciences Corp. (which is now part of Northrop Grumman through several mergers), and the U.S. Air Force Academy.