Blue Origin’s next space mission will fly the astronaut’s daughter

The crew for Blue Origin’s next suborbital spaceflight includes, clockwise from top left, Bess Ventures founder Lane Bess; his son Cameron Bess; investor Evan Dick; Good Morning America co-author Michael Strahan; Laura Shepard Churchley, the eldest daughter of the late NASA astronaut Alan Shepard; and space industry leader / philanthropist Dylan Taylor. (Photos via Blue Origin)

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin spacecraft plans to fly six suborbital space travelers next month, which would mark a first for the company’s New Shepard spacecraft. And that’s far from the first thing.

If the NS-19 mission continues as planned on December 9, the persons on board will include the first parent-child team in space, the first professional American journalist in space, and the first daughter of an astronaut traveling into space. room her herself.

To top it all off, the astronaut’s daughter is Laura Shepard Churchley – whose father, Alan Shepard, was the first American in space in 1961, inspiring New Shepard’s name.

“It’s a little funny for me to say that an original Shepard will fly on New Shepard,” Churchley, 74, said in a video clip published by Blue Origin. “I’m really excited to take on a Blue Origin flight. I am very proud of my father’s legacy. ”

The journalist is Michael Strahan, co-author of ABC’s “Good Morning America” ​​as well as the host of the “$ 100,000 Pyramid” game show, a former football star and current football analyst on television.

“Blue Origin, they approached me and they asked if I wanted to be a crew member. And without hesitation I said yes,” Strahan said on this morning’s GMA show. Strahan will follow in the footsteps of the first journalist in space, Japan’s Toyohiro Akiyama, who flew to Russia’s Mir space station in 1990.

Churchley and Strahan will fly as Blue Origins guests. In a press release, Blue Origin said that Strahan would be paid a scholarship as a crew member and that the scholarship would be donated to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

The parent and child are Lane Bess, a longtime tech executive who is the founder of a venture capital firm called Bess Ventures, and Cameron Bess.

The younger Bess is a content creator on Twitch and YouTube, who is a graduate of the DigiPen Institute of Technology in Redmond, Washington. According to LinkedIn and Facebook profiles, Cameron Bess still lives in Redmond.

“It all still feels really weird to me,” Bess, who identifies as a pansexual and a furry, says in a YouTube video. “I feel like I’ve had a huge opportunity to go in for so many of the things I love and to reach out and inspire people. And I do not want that [meep] it up. “

Besses will not be the first parent and first child to fly in space. That award belongs to the late NASA astronaut Owen Garriott, who made a stay at the Skylab space station in 1973 and flew on a shuttle mission in 1983; and his son Richard Garriott, a video game player who paid a multi-million dollar ticket to go to the International Space Station in 2008. But they will be the first parent-and-child duo to fly on the same space mission, albeit suborbital rather than orbital.

Rounding out the sextet is Evan Dick, who is an engineer, investor and executive member of New Jersey-based Dick Holdings LLC; and Dylan Taylor, who is the chairman and CEO of Voyager Space and the founder of a nonprofit group called Space for Humanity.

In a blog post announcing his participation in the mission, Taylor announced “a set of gifts that I would ask all other commercial astronauts to consider.”

“I call it buy one, give one.… It’s simple, donate to worthy causes here on Earth, equivalent to the fare for spaceflight,” he wrote. Taylor said his selected recipients will include Space for Humanity as well as AstroAccess, Edesia Nutrition, Patti Grace Smith Fellowship and Brooke Owens Fellowship.

Taylor, Dick and Besses pay undisclosed rates for their space travel.

This will be the 19th New Shepard flight since 2015, including 16 unmanned missions.

All six spaceflyers will undergo the routine experienced by Blue Origins two previous crews – July’s first foursome ever, which included Jeff Bezos and his brother Mark, plus aviation pioneer Wally Funk and Dutch teen Oliver Daemen; and October’s crew of four, which featured 90-year-old Star Trek actor William Shatner.

The NS-19 crew will head out to the Blue Origins West Texas launch complex a few days before their flight on December 9 and board the New Shepard spacecraft for a suborbital trip that will give them a few minutes of weightlessness and an astronaut sighting of the curved earth under a black sky. The autonomously piloted tour should last about 10 minutes, from take-off to parachute-supported landing of the crew capsule.

The new Shepard booster is designed to land itself separately on a cushion not far from where it will be launched.

In addition to the passengers, Blue Origin will fly a postcard from each astronaut on behalf of Club for the Future, the company’s nonprofit education fund. The club’s “Postcards to Space” program has sent thousands of messages from students to space and back on New Shepard.

Blue Origin said the liftoff is targeted at. 9.00 CT (7.00 PT), with live launch coverage starting at BlueOrigin.com at T-minus-90 minutes.

Next month’s flight is likely to close a banner year for commercial human spaceflight. In addition to Blue Origins suborbital missions, Virgin Galactic sent its billionaire founder, Richard Branson, on a suborbital test flight of its SpaceShipTwo Unity rocket aircraft in July. And in September, SpaceX put a billionaire-backed crew into orbit for the philanthropic Inspiration4 mission.

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