Blue Origin carries the first Egyptian and Portuguese spacefliers on suborbital trip

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Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket ship rises from its Texas launch pad. (Blue Origin via YouTube)
Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket ship rises from its Texas launch pad. (Blue Origin via YouTube)

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture sent six more crew members on a suborbital space ride, including the first Egyptian and Portuguese citizens to reach the final frontier.

Thanks to today’s flight from Launch Site One in West Texas, Blue Origin’s list of spacefliers has grown to 31 over the course of a little more than a year. Bezos himself went on the first crewed flight in July 2021, and Florida investor Evan Dick bought two tickets to space.

The lineup for NS-22 — the 22nd mission for the New Shepard suborbital launch system, and the sixth crewed flight — set a couple of precedents.

Portugal’s first spaceflier is Mario Ferreira, an entrepreneur, investor and president of Porto-based Pluris Investments. The first from Egypt is Sara Sabry, a mechanical and biomedical engineer who founded a nonprofit called Deep Space Initiative. Sabry was the second Blue Origin crew member sponsored by Space for Humanity, a nonprofit that supports citizen astronauts.

Rounding out the “Titanium Feather” crew were Coby Cotton, a co-founder of the Dude Perfect sports/entertainment channel; Vanessa O’Brien, a British-American explorer and former banking executive; Clint Kelly III, who helped pioneer technologies for driverless cars; and Steve Young, former CEO of Young’s Communications LLC.

Cotton’s seat was sponsored by MoonDAO, a crypto-centric collective that aims to decentralize access to space. Although Blue Origin does not disclose how much its spacefliers pay for their flights, crypto sleuths estimated that MoonDAO devoted about $1.25 million to Cotton’s flight.

Today’s flight followed the routine established by the previous five crewed missions: Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket ship blasted off at 8:56 a.m. CT (6:56 a.m. PT), sending the crew capsule beyond the 100-kilometer (62-mile) Karman Line that marks the internationally accepted boundary of outer space. The maximum altitude was 351,232 feet (66.5 miles, or 107 kilometers) above mean sea level.

During the highest phase of the trajectory, the six spacefliers unhooked themselves from their seats for a few minutes to float in zero-G and look out at the curving Earth through the capsule’s picture windows. Crew members could be heard over a communications link exulting over the experience.

New Shepard’s booster makes an autonomous landing. (Blue Origin via YouTube)
New Shepard’s booster makes an autonomous landing. (Blue Origin via YouTube)

New Shepard’s reusable booster made an autonomous landing on a pad near the launch site. Meanwhile, the crew capsule floated down separately to the Texas rangeland on the end of its parachutes. “We’re not gonna die!” Cotton said half-jokingly as the parachutes opened.

The flight took 10 minutes and 20 seconds from launch to touchdown.

Blue Origin’s NS-22 mission was part of a one-day launch trifecta also including Rocket Lab’s launch of a classified satellite mission for the National Reconnaissance Office and United Launch Alliance’s sendoff for a Space Force missile warning satellite. SpaceX could turn the trifecta into a quadfecta later today with the scheduled launch of a South Korean lunar probe.

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