Blue Origin launches 6 people on the company’s 5th space tourism flight

Blue Origin now has five crewed spaceflights under its belt.

Jeff Bezos’ The company sent six people into suborbital space today (June 4), completing its fifth manned spaceflight mission and hitting several milestones in the process.

The action began around 9:25 a.m. EDT (1:25 p.m. GMT), when Blue Origin’s New Shepard vehicle took off from Launch Site One, the company’s facility in West Texas, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) from the town of Van Horn. And it was all over just 10 minutes later, when the New Shepard capsule and its six passengers landed under parachutes, sending up a plume of desert dust as it touched down.

Related: Blue Origin’s NS-21 mission (reference)

New Shepard consists of a rocket and a capsule, both reusable. The booster descends shortly before the capsule, performing powered vertical landings, like SpaceX’s early stages Falcon 9 orbital rockets do.

Today’s flight was the 21st overall for blue origin and New Shepard, which explains the mission’s nickname: NS-21. It was the company’s second crewed flight this year, following the NS-20, which took off and landed on March 31.

New Shepard’s other three crewed flights took place in July, October and December of last year respectively. Engineer and investor Evan Dick was one of the crew members on that December flight, known as NS-19. And he flew again today on the NS-21, becoming the very first repeat passenger on the New Shepard.

The NS-20 crew members left messages for the capsule’s communicator to read to the crew before the flight. Also, Apollo astronaut Charlie Duke, who flew on the Apollo 16 mission 50 years ago this year and served as a capsule communicator on Apollo 11, sat in pre-flight mission control to good luck to the crew of the NS-21.

Several other NS-21 firsts came courtesy of crew member Katya Echazarreta, a 26-year-old science communicator who became the first Mexican-born woman and youngest American woman to reach space.

The siege of Echazarreta was sponsored by the non-profit organization Space For Humanity, which seeks to expand our species’ access to space. She is the first of Space For Humanity’s “citizen astronauts” to reach the final frontier. (However, his work for the group is not finished; citizen astronauts are expected to help implement the positive aspects of the overview effect – the change in perspective that results from viewing our planet from above – here on Earth after they land.)

The other four passengers on NS-21 were civilian production engineer Victor Correa Hespanha, who became the second Brazilian to reach space; Jaison Robinson, who was a runner-up on the TV show “Survivor: Samoa” in 2009 and later co-founded a company called Dream Variations Ventures; Victor Vescovo, an accomplished explorer who co-founded the private equity investment firm Insight Equity; and Hamish Harding, president of business jet brokerage firm Action Aviation, who is also an explorer and adventurer who holds several aviation world records.

You can read more about each of them in our History of NS-21 crew members.

Like Echazarreta, Correa Hespanha stole at someone else’s expense; its seat was sponsored by the Crypto space agency (opens in a new tab). The other four NS-21 passengers apparently paid for their own travel, but it is unclear how much they had to pay; Blue Origin did not disclose the price of its tickets.

For perspective: The company’s main rival in the suborbital space tourism industry, Richard Branson’s Galactic Virgo, currently charges $450,000 for a seat on its VSS Unity spaceplane. VSS Unity has flown into space four times to date, but has yet to transport paying customers. Virgin Galactic plans to begin full commercial passenger operations with the vehicle in early 2023.

The NS-21 was originally scheduled to launch on May 20, but Blue Origin delayed the launch to investigate a possible problem with one of New Shepard’s backup systems.

Mike Wall is the author of “The low (opens in a new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in a new tab). Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in a new tab) Or on Facebook (opens in a new tab).

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