Laura Shepard Churchley is bringing extra than simply recollections of her father on her upcoming Blue Origin launch into space. As the eldest daughter of the United States’ first astronaut, Churchley has packed a stash of special items that not solely made the journey earlier than, however went additional — to the moon and again.
Churchley was 14 years outdated when her dad, Alan Shepard, lifted off on NASA’s first human spaceflight, Mercury-Redstone 3, on May 5, 1961. Now 74, Churchley will not be solely following in her father’s footsteps, however his trajectory, too. The suborbital flight path that Blue Origin‘s aptly-named “New Shepard” rocket will fly is barely decrease than the one Shepard trailblazed 60 years in the past.
“I know we are going to get training so I will know what to expect, but it looks like the same thing that Daddy did, just about five minutes shorter,” Churchley stated in an interview with collectSPACE.com.
One main distinction would be the “space” that’s obtainable inside Churchley’s experience. Shepard’s Mercury capsule, “Freedom 7,” had barely sufficient room for its pilot, not to mention anybody or the rest. Blue Origin’s New Shepard seats six. Churchley’s NS-19 mission crewmates will embrace 4 paying passengers (Dylan Taylor, Evan Dick and Lane and Cameron Bess) and “Good Morning America” anchor Michael Strahan.
Freedom 7 was so tightly packed that Shepard solely had one piece of memorabilia with him on his history-making 15-minute flight: a 23-by-36-inch (58-by-91 cm) American flag that was rolled up and caught inside a wiring bundle within the spacecraft.
By comparability, Churchley and her 5 fellow Blue Origin fliers every have a small pouch to pack with mementos.
“I have a silver dollar of his that he took to the moon for my grandmother and I have his Naval Academy ring that he wore on that mission,” she stated, referring to Shepard’s second spaceflight, Apollo 14, throughout which he grew to become the fifth particular person to stroll on the moon. “I have some enamel Apollo 14 pendants and I have my opal pendant that Daddy took to the moon for me in 1971, so I am going to send that up again.”
Churchley additionally packed a chunk of warmth protect and a South African Krugerrand that beforehand flew into space together with her father.
“I’m taking that gold coin up for coin collectors,” she stated.
Churchley can be taking a piece of Freedom 7. Though Shepard solely flew with the one flag, he later gifted Churchley with a small washer that was faraway from his Mercury spacecraft post-flight. The metallic ring suspended from a gold pendant will now add a number of extra minutes floating in space to its historical past.
“I am also taking a tennis ball for my grandson and a couple of golf balls for my husband and some friends,” Churchley informed collectSPACE.
Shepard famously grew to become the primary particular person to hit a golf ball off the moon, a feat Churchley doesn’t anticipate she is going to be capable of mimic on her flight. Among different considerations, the New Shepard capsule is outfitted with what Blue Origin promotes as the most important home windows ever launched into space.
“Well, we could probably take a golf ball and just gently throw it to each other,” she joked.
Churchley has additionally packed two objects for the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (previously, Mercury 7 Foundation), a non-profit co-founded by her father which she now helps lead because the chair for its Board of Trustees.
“I am taking an American flag that went to the moon with Daddy. I’m taking that in my bag. And then I’m taking his Apollo 14 patch that also went to the moon so they can make a display at their home office in Orlando,” stated Churchley. “They have already asked me to give a talk next year, so I’ll be happily helping them out.”
Churchley’s New Shepard-19 (NS-19) mission is scheduled to elevate off Thursday morning (Dec. 9) from Blue Origin’s Launch Site One close to Van Horn, Texas. Although she doesn’t place a lot significance on titles, she stated that she is proud that she is going to quickly grow to be the primary daughter of an astronaut to fly into space.
“I like becoming the first father and daughter to fly,” she stated, “just because I like my father.”
collectSPACE is grateful to RR Auction for sponsoring protection of Blue Origin’s New Shepard-19 (NS-19) mission. The public sale home relies in New Hampshire, Alan Shepard’s house state, and was behind the $28 million sale of the primary seat on Blue Origin’s New Shepard launch car.
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