Sixty years after watching her father launch on the primary American spaceflight, Laura Shepard Churchley is able to comply with in his footsteps.
The eldest daughter of the late Mercury astronaut Alan Shepard, Churchley has been confirmed to fly on Blue Origin’s New Shepard launch vehicle as a member of its third human spaceflight and first six-person crew. Scheduled to take flight from the corporate’s West Texas launch website on Dec. 9, the NS-19 mission can even embody former skilled soccer participant and “Good Morning America” (GMA) anchor Michael Strahan, who will change into the primary Black individual to launch aboard a suborbital spaceflight.
The NS-19 crew, together with 4 extra paying passengers — Dylan Taylor, Evan Dick and Lane and Cameron Bass — was introduced by Blue Origin on Tuesday (Nov. 23).
Churchley, now 74, was 14 years previous when her father climbed aboard the Mercury capsule “Freedom 7” and lifted off on the Mercury-Redstone 3 mission on May 5, 1961. The 15-minute suborbital flight reached simply over 100 nautical miles (116.5 statute miles or 187.5 km) earlier than returning to a splashdown within the Atlantic Ocean — a second that Churchley recalled after watching the first crewed New Shepard launch in July.
“It was a thrill,” mentioned Churchley, sharing her impressions on a webcast following the New Shepard flight. “It brought back lots of memories, especially when the parachutes came out, because I remember that on Daddy’s first flight in 1961.”
On board that July 2021 flight have been 4 crew members, together with Blue Origin’s billionaire founder Jeff Bezos, the previous chief govt officer of Amazon.com.
“For our purposes today, the thing that is most interesting about Alan Shepard is that he is the namesake for this vehicle, New Shepard, and that is because the mission profile we did today is very similar to the one that Alan flew when he became the first American in space sixty-ish years ago,” Bezos mentioned at a press convention following his personal flight into space.
Launching on NS-19, Churchley will change into the second, second-generation U.S. astronaut to fly into space. She is preceded solely by Richard Garriott, the son of Skylab and space shuttle astronaut Owen Garriott, who funded his personal journey to the International Space Station in 2008.
Unlike her father, who flew to space alone, Churchley will launch with 5 others on Blue Origin’s first spaceflight to fill all six seats aboard the New Shepard capsule. The prior two crewed spaceflights flew with solely 4 passengers every.
The Dec. 9 launch will mark the nineteenth flight of the New Shepard system, which features a vertical take-off-and-landing booster and a crew capsule geared up with what Blue Origin describes are the biggest ever home windows to fly into space. Joining Churchley and the 4 different NS-19 crew members can be Strahan, who at 6 toes, 5 inches tall (196 cm), will change into the tallest individual in historical past to achieve space.
“I have to say, there are a lot of people who look and they go, ‘You know what? Billionaires spend a lot of money to go into space,’ but this is bigger than that,” Strahan mentioned in an interview with Bezos after Blue Origin’s first human flight. “This is not just about you trying to go to space, this is so big in terms of education and for things that are going on on this planet.”
Like Churchley, Strahan attended the July launch. He helped cowl the mission for GMA from Blue Origin’s launch and touchdown website close to Van Horn, Texas.
“I wouldn’t have considered doing this until I saw you today. [It’s] the most amazing thing I have seen in my life,” Strahan informed Bezos.
Strahan and Churchley are flying as company of Blue Origin, like “Mercury 13” pilot Wally Funk and “Star Trek” actor William Shatner have been on the primary and second New Shepard crewed flights, respectively. As a crew member, Strahan will obtain a stipend, which is being donated to The Boys & Girls Club.
The 4 paying passengers aboard NS-19 embody Taylor, chairman and CEO of the space exploration agency Voyager Space and founding father of the nonprofit Space for Humanity; Dick, an engineer and investor who’s a volunteer pilot for Starfighters Aerospace; and the primary parent-child pair to fly into space, Bess Ventures founder Lane Bess and Cameron Bess, a content material creator who identifies as pansexual.
Though three paying passengers have already flown, Blue Origin has but to reveal the value for a seat on New Shepard. The firm offered its first accessible seat to a still-unnamed public sale winner who paid $28 million however has but to fly. The public sale proceeds have been donated to Blue Origin’s non-profit basis, Club for the Future, which in flip gave $1 million to every of 19 space-based charities — together with the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, which was co-founded by Alan Shepard and is led partially immediately by Churchley because the chair of the Board of Trustees.
Strahan would be the second retired NFL soccer participant to launch into space, having been a defensive finish for the New York Giants for 15 seasons. The first, Leland Melvin, logged greater than 23 days in Earth orbit on two space shuttle missions as a NASA astronaut from 1998 to 2010.
Strahan can even be the second tv information persona to fly into space after Toyohiro Akiyama, who launched to Russia’s space station Mir as a correspondent for the Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS) in 1990.
The present Guinness World Record for the tallest person in space is held by two NASA astronauts: James “Jim” Wetherbee and James “Ox” van Hoften. Both stood 6 toes, 4 inches tall (193 cm) once they lifted off on their respective space shuttle missions.
Barring any unexpected developments earlier than the launch on Dec. 9, the NS-19 crew would be the thirty fifth to fortieth individuals to launch on a suborbital spaceflight and the 604th by 609th to fly above 50 miles excessive (80 km), the U.S. definition of the boundary between Earth and space. (The NS-19 launch is presently scheduled to happen the day after a Russian Soyuz launch to the International Space Station that can carry two Japanese spaceflyers: billionaire Yusaku Maezawa and movie producer Yozo Hirano, who will change into the 602nd and 603rd individuals to achieve that altitude.)
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