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Marking another first, Blue Origin launches six spacefliers

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture guided another suborbital space trip into the record books today — a trip that also marked a giant leap toward making space tourism routine.

When Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket ship lifted off from Launch Site One near Van Horn, Texas, every one of the crew capsule’s six seats was filled for the first time ever. During the reusable craft’s previous two crewed missions, in July and October, only four spacefliers were on board.

The sextet included Laura Shepard Churchley, the eldest daughter of the late NASA astronaut Alan Shepard. His suborbital mission made him the first American in space in 1961, and inspired the name of the spaceship flying today.

“We did it, yay!” Churchley could be heard exclaiming just before touchdown.

Afterward, Churchley said her spaceflight was probably unlike what her father experienced. “I thought about Daddy when I was coming down,” she told Bezos. “I thought, gosh, he didn’t enjoy any of what I’m getting to enjoy. He was working!”

Blue Origin’s other special guest for the flight was Michael Strahan, who became the first American TV anchor (and football commentator) by virtue of his status at ABC’s “Good Morning America” (and Fox Sports). “I think it is safe to say that the word ‘touchdown’ has a new meaning for Michael Strahan today,” launch commentator Jacki Cortese said as the mission ended.

Back on the ground, Strahan said he was struck by the transition from the blue skies of Earth to the black sky of space. “It’s unreal,” he told Bezos. Strahan also mentioned the effect of high-G acceleration: “It’s not a facelift, it’s a face drop.”

Among the spacefliers paying an undisclosed fare were Bess Ventures founder Lane Bess and Cameron Bess, the first parent-and-child duo to go into space together. There’s a Seattle-area tech connection for Cameron, who uses he/she/they pronouns: They are a Twitch streamer (and a furry) who live in Redmond, Wash.

Rounding out the crew were Dylan Taylor, who is the chairman and CEO of Voyager Space and the founder of a nonprofit group called Space for Humanity; and Evan Dick, an engineer, investor and managing member of Dick Holdings LLC.

By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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