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Husband and wife score a first on Blue Origin space trip

Say hello to the final frontier’s latest power couple: Marc and Sharon Hagle, who became the first husband-and-wife team to fly on a commercial spaceship today during a suborbital trip provided by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture.

The Hagles and four other spacefliers blasted off from Launch Site One in Texas aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket ship at 8:58 a.m. CT (6:58 a.m. PT) after a series of holds. There was no immediate word about the reason for the holds.

The flight profile for today’s mission — which is known as NS-20 because it was the 20th flight for the company’s reusable New Shepard launch system — followed the precedent set by three previous crewed flights: The hydrogen-fueled booster lofted the crew capsule to an unofficial altitude of 66.5 miles (107 kilometers), giving the sextet a few minutes of weightlessness and an astronaut’s-eye view of a curving Earth beneath the black sky of space.

After stage separation, the autonomously controlled booster touched down on a landing pad, not far from the launch pad, while the crew capsule floated down to make a parachute-aided landing amid the West Texas rangeland. The flight took a little more than 10 minutes from the booster’s launch to the capsule’s landing.

Cries of “Woo-Hoo” could be heard from the crew over the capsule’s communication channel just after touchdown. Sharon Hagle gave a fist pump — and gave a hug and a kiss to her husband — as the couple emerged from the capsule.

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Are space trips trending toward becoming routine?

When Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture sends its next crew on a suborbital ride to space, as early as March 31, there won’t be any TV celebrities on board. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

“I’m personally seeing more and more people I know flying on each flight … and that’s more exciting to me than celebrity fliers,” Laura Seward Forczyk, the owner of the Atlanta-based space consulting firm Astralytical, told GeekWire in an email. “People in my network flying makes it feel much closer and more accessible.”

Folks who aren’t space consultants, or space geeks, might be hard-pressed to name a single member of the sextet — although they’d probably remember that “Saturday Night Live” comedian Pete Davidson gave up his seat due to a scheduling conflict.

To fill that seat, Blue Origin chose its own Gary Lai. He’s the chief architect for the New Shepard suborbital spaceship that’s due to take off from the company’s Launch Site One amid the rangeland of West Texas. Assuming all systems are go, launch coverage via Blue Origin’s website and YouTube is set to begin at 7:20 a.m. CT (5:20 a.m. PT), with liftoff expected around 8:30 a.m. CT (6:30 a.m. PT).

This mission, known as NS-20, marks the 20th outing for Blue Origin’s reusable New Shepard launch system and the fourth crewed flight.

Headliners for the three previous trips included Jeff Bezos and aviation pioneer Wally Funk for last July’s debut; Star Trek captain William Shatner for October’s sequel; and Laura Shepard Churchley, the eldest daughter of pioneer NASA astronaut Alan Shepard, plus morning-show anchor Michael Strahan for December’s three-peat.

On the NS-20 mission, Lai will be joined by Marc and Sharon Hagle, the first married couple to fly in space together since 1992; George Nield, a former Federal Aviation Administration official who was involved in regulating commercial spaceflight; Jim Kitchen, a teacher and entrepreneur from North Carolina; and Marty Allen, an angel investor and former CEO of Party America.

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Blue Origin’s next space crew waits out the weather

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture has rescheduled its next crewed suborbital space mission for March 31, due to concerns about the weather.

In a mission update, Blue Origin said “forecasted high winds during launch and recovery” forced a postponement of the liftoff from the company’s Launch Site One in West Texas. The National Weather Service said winds could reach sustained levels of 35 to 45 mph on March 29, with gusts up to 60 mph.

Six spacefliers — including the first married couple to go into space together in 30 years — have signed on for Blue Origin’s fourth crewed suborbital flight.

“The team has completed Flight Readiness Review and confirmed the vehicle has met all the mission requirement for flight,” Blue Origin said. “Astronauts are completing their training, and weather remains as the only gating factor.”

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Pete Davidson scrubs his suborbital space ride

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture has called off plans to put “Saturday Night Live” cast member Pete Davidson on the next flight of its New Shepard suborbital spaceship. “Pete Davidson is no longer able to join the NS-20 crew on this mission,” Blue Origin said today in a tweet. The company said that liftoff from Launch Site One in West Texas has been delayed from March 24 to March 29.

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Comedian Pete Davidson gets his space trip confirmed

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture has confirmed that “Saturday Night Live” comedian Pete Davidson will be going to space next week, less than a year after he portrayed a hapless Mars astronaut on NBC’s late-night sketch show.

Bezos won’t be accompanying Davidson, even though that was the impression given by some of last week’s gossip about the flight. Instead, five paying passengers will be riding alongside the 28-year-old actor, who co-wrote and starred in a semi-autobiographical movie titled “The King of Staten Island” in 2020.

The other five spacefliers listed in today’s announcement are:

  • Marty Allen, an angel investor and the former CEO of Party America and California Closet Company, among other ventures.
  • Marc Hagle, the president and CEO of Tricor International, a residential and commercial property development corporation.
  • Sharon Hagle, the founder of SpaceKids Global, a nonprofit organization focusing on STEAM+ education, with a special emphasis on empowering girls. SpaceKids participates in the Postcards to Space program led by the Club for the Future, Blue Origin’s educational foundation. Marc and Sharon Hagle are husband and wife.
  • Jim Kitchen, a teacher, entrepreneur and explorer who has served on the faculty of the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School since 2010.
  • George Nield, a former associate administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation who is now the president of Commercial Space Technologies.

Blue Origin said Davidson would be getting a free flight as the company’s guest. The company declined to say how much the other fliers would be paying for their trips.

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‘SNL’ comedian is reportedly up for a space ride

Comedian Pete Davidson co-starred with SpaceX CEO Elon Musk last year in a “Saturday Night Live” sketch about a slacker astronaut named Chad, but it sounds as if Davidson could soon go into space for real — courtesy of Musk’s rival space billionaire, Jeff Bezos.

According to the New York Post’s Page Six gossip column, Davidson is close to signing up for a suborbital space trip on the New Shepard rocket ship built by Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture.

“Pete is excited,” according to an unnamed Page Six source said to be familiar with Davidson’s plans. “They haven’t signed a contract yet, but it looks like it’s going to happen. The details are being finalized.”

Blue Origin, which is based in Kent, Wash., launched three crewed suborbital space missions from its West Texas spaceport last year and is reportedly keen to pick up the pace this year. Page Six quoted its source as saying the timing for Davidson’s flight is still up in the air.

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Crypto whiz bid $28M for space seat (and is buying more)

The winner of June’s $28 million auction for a seat on Blue Origin’s suborbital spaceship revealed himself today — and is buying tickets for five more people to fly with him a year from now.

It would be hard to come up with a quirkier résumé than the one put together by Justin Sun, the 31-year-old crypto pioneer who put in the winning bid.

He’s a Chinese-born entrepreneur who founded the Tron cryptocurrency platform and serves as the CEO of Rainberry Inc., the file-sharing company formerly known as BitTorrent Inc.

Sun, a protégé of Chinese billionaire Jack Ma, recently became a citizen of the Caribbean island nation of Grenada. Last week he was named Grenada’s ambassador to the World Trade Organization in Geneva.

Although his net worth is currently estimated at a mere $200 million, he’s no stranger to high-stakes bidding. In 2019, he bid $4.6 million just to have lunch with billionaire Warren Buffett.

Sun said he was drawn to Blue Origin’s vision of sharing the spaceflight experience with the wider public.

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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.

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Blue Origin explores the final frontier of merchandising

Jeff Bezos’ privately held Blue Origin space venture is starting to look more like the other company he founded: Amazon.

During the run-up to Dec. 11’s scheduled launch of the venture’s New Shepard suborbital spaceship, you could order a limited-edition Blue Origin sweatshirt created for spaceflier Michael Strahan’s brand, watch Strahan and Bezos mix it up on Thursday Night Football — and look forward to “Shatner in Space,” an Amazon Prime documentary about Star Trek captain William Shatner’s flight in October.

For now, the revenue from merchandising and media projects is certain to pale in comparison with the fares that Blue Origin’s suborbital spaceflight customers are paying, and with the multimillion-dollar awards that Blue Origin is getting from NASA for other space projects.

Nevertheless, the crossovers illustrate how one of Bezos’ big businesses could leverage marketing expertise from the other.

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Worries about winds delay Blue Origin space trip

Mercury astronaut Alan Shepard’s daughter will have to wait a little longer to take a ride on the suborbital spaceship that’s named after her father.

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture has delayed its next New Shepard mission until Dec. 11, due to concerns about forecasted winds on Dec. 9 — the date that was originally set for Laura Shepard Churchley’s launch. Her late father was the first American in space in 1961, and his suborbital spaceflight was the inspiration for New Shepard’s name.

Five other spacefliers will be waiting alongside Churchley for the suborbital trip at Blue Origin’s Launch Site One in West Texas: Michael Strahan, a co-anchor for ABC’s “Good Morning America”; Bess Ventures founder Lane Bess and Cameron Bess, the first parent-and-child duo to go into space together; and two business executives, Evan Dick and Dylan Taylor. Churchley and Strahan are flying as Blue Origin’s guests, while the others are paying an undisclosed fare.