Blue Origin launched its second crewed flight into suborbital space with a manifest including 90-year-old “Star Trek” actor William Shatner, who became the oldest person to blast off the planet.
The flight Wednesday came three months after Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos inaugurated the closely held company’s first flight with people, joined by three others including 82-year-old Wally Funk who was then the oldest person to travel into space. Bezos also shuttled the crew to the launch pad in a Rivian truck painted with Blue Origin’s logo.
The rocket lifted off at 9:50 a.m. local time from Van Horn, Texas, for a roughly 10-minute journey into suborbital space, reaching an altitude above 351,000 feet, topping the so-called Karman line of 100 kilometers (62 miles) that typically denotes space.
After a smooth landing, Shatner spoke with Bezos outside the capsule and lauded the mission as an indelible experience.
“Everybody in the world needs to do this. Everyone needs to see,” an emotional Shatner said on Blue Origin’s webcast, describing his perceptions during the flight. “It was unbelievable.”
The launch comes after a summer of tumult for Blue Origin, which Bezos founded 21 years ago to advance his goals to have people living and working in space. Bezos was heavily involved in the day’s events, posing for pictures with each participant as they boarded and among the first to greet the crew as they emerged from the crew capsule.
Blue Origin has sued NASA seeking to gain a U.S. contract to develop a human lander to return humans to the moon as part of the agency’s Artemis program. It also faced accusations last month from a former employee about a toxic, sexist culture that also compromised safety. The latter claims prompted the Federal Aviation Administration to review Blue Origin’s safety practices.
Blue Origin has pushed back on the allegations, saying its primary launch vehicle and capsule set the standard for safety. The company began its webcast of the launch early Wednesday with a segment about the company’s safety culture and how robust it considers the design of its New Shepard spacecraft.
Along with Shatner, who played Captain James Kirk in the famous 1960s television show, Blue Origin flew three others:
- Chris Boshuizen, a co-founder and the former chief technology officer at Planet Labs Inc. and a former NASA engineer
- Glenn de Vries, co-founder of Medidata Solutions, a platform for clinical research that was acquired by Dassault Systemes in 2019. He is now vice chair of life sciences and health care for Dassault
- Audrey Powers, a Blue Origin engineer and a former NASA mission controller for the International Space Station. She is also a pilot and Blue Origin’s former deputy general counsel.
Blue Origin delayed the flight by a day because of high winds near the launch site. The company, based in Kent, Washington, also completed a NASA scientific payloads mission without people on Aug. 26.