Bezos’ Blue Origin Launches First Crew Since 2022 Grounding

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space company soared back into the business of space tourism this weekend. Their New Shepard rocket was grounded due to a safety issue in 2022. Moreover, the six-person crew included Ed Dwight, who made history as the oldest person in space at 90 years old.

Jeff Bezos’ space company, Blue Origin, launched a six-person crew to the edge of space on Sunday. This launch marks its first crewed flight since the New Shepard rocket was grounded in 2022. Among the passengers was Ed Dwight, the first Black astronaut candidate from the 1960s. With this flight, he became the oldest person in space at 90 years and eight months.

The launch took place near Van Horn, Texas. The rocket carried the crew in a gumdrop-shaped capsule, which separated and ascended to 65.7 miles above Earth. The booster landed as planned, while the capsule returned to Earth under parachutes. Although one parachute did not fully inflate, the mission was deemed a success.

Ed Dwight, originally selected by President John Kennedy in 1961, had never flown to space until this mission. Upon landing, he celebrated, saying, “I thought I really didn’t need this in my life, but now I need it in my life.”

Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket 

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This mission resumed Blue Origin’s space tourism business, which had flown 37 private astronauts, including “Star Trek” star William Shatner, who was 90 years and six months old at the time of his flight in 2021. The passengers, including a venture capitalist and a pilot, were paying customers, although Dwight’s seat was sponsored by a nonprofit and a private foundation. The cost of these flights remains undisclosed.

Blue Origin’s New Shepard was grounded after a mid-flight failure in September 2022. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration required Blue Origin to implement 21 corrective actions, including an engine redesign. The rocket returned to flight in December 2023 with an uncrewed mission carrying science experiments.

With this successful mission, Blue Origin re-enters the competitive space tourism market alongside companies like Virgin Galactic and Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Blue Origin also plans to debut its larger New Glenn rocket by the end of this year, aiming to compete with SpaceX’s Falcon 9 for launching commercial and government satellites.

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