The six passengers, including a Blue Origin engineer and five paying customers, boarded the New Shepard capsule Thursday just after sunrise at the company’s launch facilities in West Texas. Powered by a 60-foot rocket, they flew at more than three times the speed of sound, or more than 2,000 miles per hour. Their capsule jumped across the Karman Line at an altitude of 100 kilometers (or 62 miles), which is It is widely recognized as the height at which outer space begins. At the height of the flight, they experienced weightlessness for a few minutes, and outside their window were sweeping views of the earth.
That trip was scheduled to include Saturday Night Live star Pete Davidson, but pulled out of the mission after Blue Origin announced a schedule change earlier this month. The company indicated the need for additional ground tests on the New Shepard missile as a reason for the delay.
The completely autonomous New Shepard passenger capsule deployed plumes of parachutes after diving back into the thickest part of Earth’s atmosphere and landed with a puff of sand in the Texas desert.
In the live broadcast, passengers could be heard cheering as the capsule landed, and moments later, they emerged from the capsule smiling and waving.
“It was so intense, I felt a little dizzy,” Lay told Sarah Knights of Blue Origin, who handles communications with passengers during the flight. “I definitely felt a little nauseous.”
Other passengers on the live stream described the scene as “amazing.”
“Unreal, unreal,” Allen said. “I can’t describe it in words.”
“It was an out-of-body experience,” Kitchen said. He described outer space as “the darkest I’ve ever seen,” adding that it was “amazing.” Nield called it “the thrill of a lifetime.”
“The pictures don’t do her justice,” he added.
What does all this mean?
Strahan wrote a message for passengers on Thursday’s flight that was read to them by ground control: “This is the best flight you can ever take, but it’s too short.”
Blue Origin’s goal is to make these suborbital spaceflights a mainstay of pop culture, enabling a 10-minute supersonic entertainment flight for invited guests — who were hitherto celebrities — and anyone else who could afford it.
Blue Origin is the first company to begin offering regular sub-orbital space tourism flights. Its main competitor, Virgin Galactic, had made its first manned flight – which included its founder Richard Branson – before Bezos’ flight last July. But Virgin Galactic did not follow up that flight with another manned flight after it was later revealed that the company’s space plane had moved off its scheduled flight path. The company now says it’s undergoing unrelated technical updates and may be back in flight later this year.
SpaceX is the only private company to offer flights into orbit. The company completed its first-ever civilian flight into orbit last September, taking the billionaire and three select colleagues on a three-day excursion. Next week, the company plans to take four paying customers on a trip to the International Space Station, which orbits about 200 miles above Earth.
Blue Origin did not have specific updates to the BE-4 when reached for comment.
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