Blue Origin successfully completed New Shepard’s first human flight today with four private citizens onboard — those now-astronaut individuals included Jeff Bezos, Mark Bezos, Wally Funk and Oliver Daemen, who all officially passed the Kármán Line, an internationally recognized boundary of space.
The New Shepard rocket and the crew capsule all landed safely to the applause of the company’s personnel as this record-breaking mission was completed safely.
Upon landing, the astronauts were greeted by their families and Blue Origin’s ground operations team for a celebration in the West Texas desert.
This historic mission for Blue Origin noted that…
- Wally Funk, 82, became the oldest person to fly in space.
- Oliver Daemen, 18, was the first ever commercial astronaut to purchase a ticket and fly to space on a privately-funded and licensed space vehicle from a private launch site. He also became the youngest person to fly in space.
- New Shepard became the first commercial vehicle under a suborbital reusable launch vehicle license to fly paying customers, both payloads and astronauts, to space and back.
- Jeff and Mark Bezos became the first siblings to ever fly in space together.
“Today was a monumental day for Blue Origin and human spaceflight,” said Bob Smith, CEO, Blue Origin. “I am so incredibly proud of Team Blue, their professionalism, and expertise in executing today’s flight. This was a big step forward for us and is only the beginning.”
In addition to Astronauts Jeff Bezos and Mark Bezos…
Blue Origin Astronaut Bio: Wally Funk
At the age of 82, Wally Funk is the oldest astronaut to fly to space. She is an American aviator, Goodwill Ambassador and one of the “Mercury 13,” the 13 American women who underwent the same physical and mental tests as the seven male astronauts selected by NASA for Project Mercury, America’s first human spaceflight program. Raised in Taos, New Mexico, Wally was the first female air safety investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the first female civilian flight instructor at Fort Sill, Oklahoma and the first female Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) inspector. She has more than 19,600 flight hours and has taught more than 3,000 students to fly.
Oliver was the first paying customer to fly on board New Shepard, marking the beginning of commercial operations for the program. At 18 years of age, Oliver represents the youngest astronaut to travel to space. The winner of Blue Origin’s auction, who has asked to remain anonymous at this time, has chosen to fly on a future New Shepard mission due to scheduling conflicts. Oliver, who has been fascinated by space, the Moon and rockets since he was four, graduated from high school in 2020 and took a gap year before continuing his studies to obtain his private pilot’s license. This September, Oliver will attend the University of Utrecht to study physics and innovation
Each New Shepard mission includes two “CrewMember 7”s who play a central role in the astronaut experience and training. They don’t fly to space with the astronauts, but they do serve as their guide throughout the journey. CrewMember 7 is a position unique to Blue Origin. This mission’s CM7s included:
Kevin Sproge, Chief Trainer
Kevin Sproge is a CrewMember 7, serving as Chief Trainer, as well as the New Shepard Director of System Architecture, responsible for all of the Systems Engineering, Configuration Management and Systems Analysis on the New Shepard program. Kevin wanted to work in space since his parents took him to the USS Intrepid Air and Space Museum in New York City when he was eight. Kevin joined Blue Origin in 2018 after more than 20 years as a U.S. Navy Test Pilot flying F-18 aircraft. Kevin holds a BS in Aerospace Engineering from the U.S. Naval Academy, an MA from U.S. Naval War College as well as an MS from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
Sarah Knights, Capsule Communications (CAPCOM)
Sarah Knights is a CrewMember 7, serving as Capsule Communications (CAPCOM) between Mission Control and astronauts for First Human Flight. She joined Blue Origin in 2016 and also serves as Internship Program Manager. Sarah has taught more than 70,000 people of all ages STEM topics, including running hundreds of missions at the Museum of Flight Challenger Learning Center. She holds Bachelor’s degrees in physics and astronomy from the University of Hawaii, Hilo, and has spent her life interpreting technical subjects and translating them for people in understandable ways. Prior to her career in STEM education, she worked at Gemini Observatory and Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea.
The Lead Flight Director for this mission was Steve Lanius and the Rollout Flight Director was Nick Patrick.
Blue Origin expects to fly two more crewed flights this year, with many more crewed flights planned for 2022.
This mission was initiated from the company’s Launch Site One (formerly known as the West Texas Launch Site) that was built in 2006 and currently employs 275 full-time people. The site was selected to ensure enough safe, open space to test, transport and fly launch vehicles. Launch Site One was originally conceived as a suborbital launch site and is now home to three test stands, where Blue tests its BE-3PM, BE-3U and BE-4 engines. All 15
New Shepard launches and all predecessor programs have occurred at Launch Site One.