Eldest Daughter Of First American In Space Among Six Tourists On Next Blue Origin Space Flight
“It’s kind of fun for me to say: an original Shepard will fly on the New Shepard,” Alan Shepard's daughter said.
Alan Shepard became the first American to fly to space in 1961.
Blue Origin's next flight is set for launch on 9 December.
Laura Shepard Churchley, the eldest daughter of Alan Shepard, will be flying to space and back on the next Blue Origin flight.
Alan Shepard was among the earliest astronauts of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) — and became the first American to fly to space in 1961.
As an astronaut, his journey into space continued further out as he walked on the Moon 10 years later, in 1971, as part of the Apollo 14 mission. He became the fifth man to walk on the surface of the Earth’s satellite and, interestingly, the only one to play golf there.
Alan Shepard is also the namesake of New Shepard, the reusable launch vehicle that Jeff Bezos’s space company has been using for its space tourism rides.
Shepard’s daughter will take off on the New Shepard.
She currently serves as Chair of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation Board of Trustees, a foundation that raises money for college students and provides mentoring to scholars pursuing opportunities in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
New Shepard’s nineteenth flight, called NS-19, is scheduled to lift off to space and back on 9 December. It is set to be the first Blue Origin flight to carry a full manifest of six tourists to space, unlike the four-member crews of the two completed flights.
The six passengers on the NS-19 mission include two honourary guests, one of which is Laura Shepard Churchley, and four paying customers.
The other guest is Michael Strahan, co-anchor of the American news-and-views TV programme broadcast on the ABC network called “Good Morning America”.
On the programme, he said he was approached by Blue Origin to be a crew member and he agreed “without hesitation”.
Adding that it was “really just mind-blowing” at the first Blue Origin launch, which he covered as a journalist, Strahan said, “Innovators have been risk-takers. You know, the Wright brothers. How would we live without a plane now? We don’t think about things like that.”
He said that though it will take a while, space travel will bring a lot of technological breakthroughs here on Earth — “and I just wanted to be a part of it”.
Strahan will receive a stipend for flying with Blue Origin and the amount will be donated to The Boys & Girls Club, an American organisation made of local chapters that provide youth opportunities to learn and grow.
In an interview for Blue Origin, Laura Shepard Churchley said, “It’s kind of fun for me to say: an original Shepard will fly on the New Shepard.”
The other four crew members on Blue Origin’s 9 December flight are space industry executive and philanthropist Dylan Taylor, investor Evan Dick, Bess Ventures founder Lane Bess, and his son Cameron Bess.
Taylor is the chairman and chief executive officer of space company Voyager Space and the founder of the global nonprofit Space for Humanity, which seeks to expand access to space.
Dick is an engineer, investor, and Managing Member of Dick Holdings, LLC. He is also a pilot (airline transport pilot rating).
Lane Bess is the founder of Bess Ventures and Advisory, an investment firm that is said to support innovative technology companies. His son Cameron is a content creator.
Lane and Cameron Bess are set to become the first parent-child pair to fly in space, continuing the Blue Origin tradition of lapping up a first on every mission.
Each of the crew members will carry a postcard on behalf of Blue Origin’s foundation, Club for the Future. It’s part of the company’s “Postcards to Space” programme. These postcards contain students’ vision of what life in space will look like someday, including notes to self.
The upcoming Blue Origin flight, which will take off from Launch Site One in West Texas at 9:00 am CST/15:00 UTC, will be New Shepard’s third human flight this year, the sixth for the programme in 2021, and the nineteenth overall.
New Shepard is Blue Origin’s reusable suborbital rocket system designed to take people and payloads past the Kármán line — the internationally recognised boundary of space.
Blue Origin’s maiden flight to space and back took place just over a week after Virgin Galactic made its debut with a journey to near-space in July this year.
The passengers on that milestone ride were owner Jeff Bezos and his younger brother Mark Bezos, 18-year-old student and Blue Origin’s first paying customer Oliver Daemen, and 82-year-old Mercury 13 aviator Wally Funk.
Daemen became the youngest person to go to space and, for a brief period, Funk became the oldest person to go to space.
Her place was thereafter taken by 90-year-old Hollywood actor William Shatner on the second Blue Origin flight last month. Shatner had earned global fame for essaying the iconic role of Captain James T Kirk, the commanding officer of the starship Enterprise, in the television series and, later, feature film franchise Star Trek.
Between the two Blue Origin flights was another important mission advancing the cause of space travel. The world’s first all-civilian mission to orbit, called “Inspiration4”, was accomplished successfully by SpaceX in September.
A four-member crew was lifted up to space on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on 15 September from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. They spent three days orbiting the Earth on SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft before safely splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Kennedy Space Center.
In addition to its space flights, Bezos’ space company has announced plans to launch a commercial space station. Called “Orbital Reef”, it is envisioned as an urban business park for low-Earth orbit and to be used for purposes ranging from tourism to research and development to commerce.
Such plans fit into the Amazon founder’s grand vision of people “living and working in space” sometime in the future.
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