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Blue Origin aims to send astronaut’s daughter to space

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture is planning to fly six suborbital space travelers next month, which would mark a first for the company’s New Shepard spaceship. And that’s far from the only first.

If the NS-19 mission proceeds as planned on Dec. 9, the people on board will include the first parent-and-child team in space, the first professional U.S. journalist in space, and the first daughter of an astronaut to go into space herself.

To cap it all off, the astronaut’s daughter is Laura Shepard Churchley — whose father, Alan Shepard, was the first American in space in 1961, providing the inspiration for New Shepard’s name.

“It’s kind of fun for me to say an original Shepard will fly on the New Shepard,” Churchley, 74, said in a video clip released by Blue Origin. “I’m really excited to be going on a Blue Origin flight. I’m very proud of my father’s legacy.”

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Jeff Bezos plays up the Earth-space connection

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture has been getting a lot of press lately, but the Amazon founder and chairman says he’s spending more money nowadays on Earth’s environmental welfare through his Bezos Earth Fund.

Four and a half years ago, Bezos told reporters that he was selling about a billion dollars’ worth of his Amazon stock on a yearly basis to put toward Blue Origin.

But at least for the time being, he says that’s trumped by his $10 billion, 10-year commitment to the Bezos Earth Fund, which distributes grants to projects around the globe. During this month’s U.N. climate summit in Scotland, the fund announced a $2 billion round of grants supporting land restoration and food production.

Bezos cited the funding during last week’s Ignatius Forum at the Washington National Cathedral in D.C. as evidence that he wasn’t just a starry-eyed billionaire with no concern about Earth’s welfare.

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Weeks after Blue Origin trip, spaceflier dies in plane crash

A month after taking a suborbital space trip alongside Star Trek actor William Shatner, medical-technology entrepreneur Glen de Vries has died in a New Jersey small-plane crash.

New Jersey State Police identified de Vries, 49, as one of two people killed on Thursday when their single-engine Cessna 172 went down in a wooded area shortly after takeoff from Caldwell, N.J. The other fatality was Thomas P. Fisher, 54, NJ.com quoted authorities as saying.

De Vries was the co-founder of Medidata Solutions, a medical software company that was acquired by Dassault Systemes in 2019 for $5.8 billion. He bought a ticket for an undisclosed price from Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture to go on the company’s second crewed suborbital spaceflight in October – and trained alongside Shatner as well as Planet Labs co-founder Chris Boshuizen and Blue Origin executive Audrey Powers.

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Real-life space trip wows Star Trek’s starship captain

Reality caught up with science fiction today when Star Trek actor William Shatner, a.k.a. Captain James T. Kirk, briefly crossed into outer space aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital spaceship.

In the process, the 90-year-old Shatner took the title of oldest human in space, less than three months after 82-year-old aviation pioneer Wally Funk set that record on Blue Origin’s first-ever crewed flight.

“How about that, guys?” Shatner could be heard saying during the descent. “That was unlike anything they described. … That was unlike anything you could ever feel.”

Today’s mission at Blue Origin’s Launch Site One in West Texas was the 18th for the New Shepard breed of spaceships, including 16 uncrewed flights over the past six years. It marked a bright day for Jeff Bezos’ Kent, Wash.-based space venture, coming amid a set of challenges and controversies.

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How to watch William Shatner beam up to space

More than a half-century after William Shatner first played a starship captain roaming the galaxy in “Star Trek,” he’s getting a real-life ride to the edge of space — and you can watch the whole episode on real-life communicators, thanks to internet links that didn’t exist when the original TV series was made.

Shatner has had a long Hollywood career since then, including prime-time parts in TV series such as “T.J. Hooker” and “Boston Legal.” It’s been 28 years since he’s starred in a Star Trek movie  But if nothing else, the seasoned actor knows how to milk his signature role.

“It looks like there’s a great deal of curiosity about this fictional character — Captain Kirk — going into space,” Shatner said in a video released today by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture. “So let’s go along with it and enjoy the ride.”

If all goes according to plan, Shatner and three shipmates will enjoy their ride in Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital spaceship at 9 a.m. CT (7 a.m. PT) Oct. 13, at the company’s Launch Site One in West Texas. Blue Origin plans to stream coverage of the countdown via its website, starting 90 minutes before liftoff.

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Star Trek space trip refocuses spotlight on Blue Origin

Star Trek captain William Shatner’s scheduled suborbital space trip is bringing a renewed flood of attention to Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture — but like a movie reboot, the storyline is more complex the second time around.

Three months after Bezos took a seat on his company’s first-ever crewed spaceflight, Shatner’s celebrity is sparking a string of feel-good interviews, with his three fellow fliers playing supporting roles. Tech entrepreneurs Chris Boshuizen and Glen de Vries are paying undisclosed fares. Like Shatner, Audrey Powers, Blue Origin’s VP for New Shepard mission and flight operations, is flying for free.

The foursome are scheduled to lift off from Launch Site One in West Texas at 8:30 a.m. CT (6:30 a.m. PT) Wednesday, aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital spaceship. They’re in the midst of a couple of days of pre-launch training, documented on this morning’s network news shows.

Most of the interviews touched upon the one-day delay in the flight due to a forecast of unacceptable winds for Tuesday, but during the CBS interview, Shatner volunteered a shout-out to Bezos’ long-term vision of having millions of people living and working in space.

“Jeff Bezos’ concept of doing all this is to build industry, homes, to live in close connection with Earth and function close to Earth,” Shatner said on CBS. “And that’s a vision that I think is very practical and worth getting behind.”

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Weather forces a delay in William Shatner’s space trek

The Starship Enterprise never had to delay its mission to seek out new life and new civilizations due to bad weather, but that’s precisely what Star Trek captain William Shatner is facing in his real-life bid to become the world’s oldest spaceflier aboard Blue Origin’s suborbital rocket ship.

Blue Origin, the space venture created by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, says the 90-year-old actor and his three shipmates are now due to fly on the company’s New Shepard craft on Oct. 13 rather than Oct. 12, due to a forecast for unacceptable winds at the West Texas launch site on the originally scheduled date.

Shatner is already at Blue Origin’s Launch Site One after flying in from the New York Comic Con. He’s joined by Planet Labs co-founder Chris Boshuizen, Medidata co-founder Glen de Vries and Audrey Powers, Blue Origin’s vice president for New Shepard mission and flight operations.

Boshuizen and de Vries are paying an undisclosed fare for their trips, while Powers and Shatner are flying as Blue Origin’s special guests.

According to today’s advisory, weather is the only concern for launch.

“As part of today’s Flight Readiness Review, the mission operations team confirmed the vehicle has met all mission requirements and astronauts began their training today,” Blue Origin said.

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Blue Origin confirms Star Trek captain’s space trip

It’s official: Star Trek actor William Shatner is due to fly on Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital spaceship next week, becoming the oldest person to go into space at the age of 90.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ space venture made the announcement this morning, confirming a report published by the TMZ celebrity news site 10 days earlier.

“I’ve heard about space for a long time now. I’m taking the opportunity to see it for myself. What a miracle,” Shatner said in the news release.

Blue Origin’s vice president of mission and flight operations, Audrey Powers, will also be on board for New Shepard’s launch. That rounds out a crew of four that also includes tech entrepreneurs Chris Boshuizen and Glen de Vries, whose names came to light last week.

Next week’s countdown and launch will be live-streamed via Blue Origin’s website, starting at the T-minus-90-minute mark. Liftoff from Launch Site One in West Texas is currently set for 8:30 a.m. CT (6:30 a.m. PT) Oct. 12.

This will be Blue Origin’s second crewed suborbital spaceflight, following up on the trip that Bezos and three other fliers took in July.

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Late-night TV skit skewers space billionaires

You know that the billionaire space race has entered the nation’s mainstream when it’s skewered by NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.”

On tonight’s season premiere, guest host Owen Wilson played the starring role in “Star Trek: Ego Quest” as Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who in July took a suborbital space ride on the New Shepard rocket built by his own Blue Origin space venture.

SNL’s writers even went so far as to write Wilson’s brother, fellow actor Luke Wilson, into the script as Mark Bezos (credited in the opening titles as “First Mate Jeff Bezos’ Brother, Whose Name Escapes Me”). Other prime-time players portrayed the Bezos brothers’ companions in what it called a “crew of random weirdos,” including Dutch student Oliver Daemen (“Science Officer Rich Kid From the Netherlands”) and 82-year-old aviation pioneer Wally Funk.

“Their mission: to just sort of fly around space, goofing off, in a ship that looks like a penis,” the narrator intones.

Naturally, Bezos and his crew get into a drag race with Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson, who in real life went on his own suborbital space journey on SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity just nine days before Bezos’ flight. The narrator calls it “A Midlife Crisis of Cosmic Proportions.”

But the race ends up going to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk (played by Mikey Day), who blasts Bezos’ craft with photon torpedoes. “Space is only big enough for one weird white billionaire,” Musk says. “So you could say beating you is my … Prime objective.” (Or should that be “Prime Directive”?)

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Blue Origin’s reputation comes under fire from within

A former employee of Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture has given up her anonymity to lead a campaign accusing the company of laxity when it comes to safety and sexual harassment.

The allegations from Alexandra Abrams, who served as Blue Origin’s head of employee communications until her dismissal in 2019, are detailed in an essay published on Lioness.co and in an interview with CBS News. Abrams said the Lioness essay was written in collaboration with 20 former and current Blue Origin employees who aren’t identified.

Abrams and her co-writers say that the types of gender gaps often seen in the aerospace industry “manifest in a particular brand of sexism,” that dissent is suppressed, and that Bezos’ competition with fellow billionaires Elon Musk and Richard Branson “seemed to take precedence over safety concerns” in planning for crewed spaceflights.

Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith was portrayed as leading the push toward flying people on Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital spacecraft. Bezos and three crewmates rode on the first crewed New Shepard flight in July, and the second crewed flight is due for launch from Blue Origin’s West Texas spaceport in two weeks.

In response to an emailed inquiry, Blue Origin said it takes allegations of sexual harassment seriously and stands by its safety record.