Blue Origin has announced its final crew member, replacing Saturday Night Live comedian Pete Davidson, for the private space company’s 20th trip to space.
New Shepard senior director and chief architect Gary Lai will join as the sixth crew member for Blue Origin’s NS-20 mission. Lai has been with the company since 2004 and was among its first 20 employees.
Lai’s addition to the NS-20 crew comes after the company announced SNL comedian Pete Davidson was “no longer able to join the NS-20 crew on this mission.”
Blue Origin's 20th flight of New Shepard has shifted to Tuesday, March 29. Pete Davidson is no longer able to join the NS-20 crew on this mission. We will announce the sixth crew member in the coming days.— Blue Origin (@blueorigin) March 18, 2022
Lai, who holds multiple patents in space system technology, received the 2019 Blue Origin Founder’s Award for technical ambition and achievement.
During his tenure as system architect in 2016, the program won the Collier Trophy from the National Aeronautic Association “for successfully demonstrating rocket booster reusability with the New Shepard human spaceflight vehicle through five successful test flights of a single booster and engine, all of which performed vertical landings on Earth.”
Lai will join Marty Allen, Jim Kitchen, George Nield, and Sharon and Marc Hagle onboard the reusable New Shepard rocket.
The Remaining Crew
Marty Allen: Former CEO of Party America, Allen is an avid aviation enthusiast, completing his first solo flight at the age of 16. Allen is also the former CEO of California Closet Company. The future space tourist also mentors CEOs throughout the industry with his board activities.
Sharon Hagle: Hagle is the founder of SpaceKids Global, a nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring students, particularly young girls, to pursue STEAM+ education. The organization partners with Girl Scouts of Citrus County, Florida, to conduct competitions and annual challenges to inspire students to pursue career paths in the space industry. To this day, Hagle’s work has reached nearly 100,000 globally.
Marc Hagle: Hagle, who is married to Sharon Hagle, is the president and CEO of Tricor International, a residential and commercial property development corporation. Marc Hagle’s leadership has led to the company’s development and ownership of more than 17.4 million square feet of properties around the United States. He and his wife are experienced philanthropists for multiple charities.
Jim Kitchen: Kitchen, an educator and well-traveled entrepreneur, has dreamt of space since NASA’s Apollo missions. In the 1980s, Kitchen spent part of his college career promoting low-Earth orbit space strips for a startup, and eventually served as faculty for the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School since 2010. The entrepreneur has visited all 193 United Nations-recognized countries.
George Nield: Nield serves as president of Commercial Space Technologies, where he works to promote commercial space activities. Previously, Nield served as associate administrator for the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation, where he signed off on and regulated all commercial space launch activities. Nield has also served as an assistant professor and research director at the U.S. Air Force Academy.
New Shepard has previously sent several noteworthy passengers to space—such as Michael Strahand, Laura Shepard Churchley, and William Shatner.
The launch is currently scheduled for March 29. Blue Origin’s live coverage of the event will begin T-60 minutes to liftoff from Launch Site One in West Texas.