Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin is set to launch its second crewed spaceflight next week, carrying some noteworthy passengers.
Here are five things you need to know about Tuesday’s mission:
1. The Crew
The mission will be carrying four passengers, most notably, “Star Trek” actor William Shatner.
Shatner, known for his iconic role as Captain Kirk in the TV and film franchise, expressed his excitement in a statement Monday.
“I’ve heard about space for a long time now,” he said. “I’m taking the opportunity to see it for myself. What a miracle.” However, Shatner will not be the first thespian to leave the planet. A Russian spacecraft carrying actor Yulia Peresild along with director Klim Shipenko, blasted off Tuesday on a mission to film a movie aboard the orbiting International Space Station.
Shatner’s announcement came alongside that of Audrey Powers, who serves as vice president of the New Shepard Mission and flight operations at Blue Origin. Powers, who previously worked as a flight controller for NASA, will be joining the crew.
Blue Origin announced the first two crew members, Dr. Chris Boshuizen and Glen de Vries, in a press release last month. Boshuizen, a former NASA engineer and co-founder of Planet Labs, earned his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Sydney.
“This is a fulfillment of my greatest childhood dream,” Boshuizen said. “More importantly, though, I see this flight as an opportunity to inspire students to pursue careers in STEM and catalyze the next generation of space explorers. After all, our future of life in space is in their very capable hands.”
Glen de Vries serves as vice chair of Life Sciences and Healthcare at Dassault Systèmes, which acquired de Vries’ company, Metadata Solutions, in 2019.
“I’ve spent my entire career working to extend people’s lives. However, with limited materials and energy on Earth, extending our reach into space can help humanity continue to thrive,” de Vries said. “Furthermore, astronauts can experience the ‘overview effect,’ gaining a new perspective on how fragile and precious our planet, those resources, and our civilization are. Playing a part in advancing the space industry and one day making those resources and that understanding available to everyone, is an incredible opportunity. I’ve been passionate about aviation and space for as long as I can remember, so this flight is truly a dream come true.”
2. The Records
Blue Origin’s previous flight on July 20 broke four different Guinness World Records:
- The oldest person to go to space is famed pilot Wally Funk, who crossed the Kármán line at the age of 82 years.
- The youngest person to go to space is Oliver Daemen, of the Netherlands, who crossed the Kármán line at the age of 18 years.
- The first siblings to go to space at the same time are Jeff and Mark Bezos.
- The first suborbital spacecraft to carry paying customers was Blue Origin’s New Shepard RSS First Step.
This time, Blue Origin will be breaking one of those records again. At 90 years old, Shatner will become the oldest person to go to space, taking the title from Funk.
Wally Funk unseated him a few months ago and now like the pinball Wizard I am; she’s going to hand her crown to me. 😉 https://t.co/Oq0DIqDdUR— William Shatner (@WilliamShatner) October 6, 2021
3. The Rocket
Tuesday’s crew will be flying aboard the New Shepard rocket, which has flown 17 times since its first launch in 2015. The rocket was named after Alan Shepard, the first American to go to space, and is designed to take passengers and payloads past the Kármán line—the edge of space.
The rocket is propelled by Blue Engine 3 (BE-3), a throttleable engine capable of takeoff and precision landing, slowing the booster down to 5 mph immediately before touchdown. New Shepard also utilizes drag brakes, aft fins, and landing gear to make fine adjustments during each mission.
The pressurized capsule can comfortably seat six passengers, with no need for pilots. New Shepard is described as a “robotic vehicle” because it flies completely autonomously. The capsule is also equipped with extensive safety protocols, including escape launching capability from the pad, mid-flight, and in space.
4. The Mission
This will be New Shepard’s 18th mission, dubbed NS-18, and is part of Blue Origin’s goal to drastically reduce the cost of space flight for future generations. This is why Blue Origin designed its rockets to be reusable, much like SpaceX’s Falcon 9.
Blue Origin also hopes to return Americans to the moon, using their “Blue Moon” lunar lander in future missions.
5. How to Watch
According to Blue Origin, the launch of NS-18 is scheduled for Tuesday, October 12, at 9:30 a.m. ET. Coverage of the event will begin an hour before lift-off on Blue Origin’s website. NS-18 will be launching from Launch Site One in west Texas, weather permitting.