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Mother and daughter win suborbital space trips

A wellness coach from Antigua and her daughter are getting tickets for a suborbital space trip, thanks to the latest in a line of out-of-this-world sweepstakes going back 20 years. And although not a single spaceflight sweepstakes winner has flown yet, there’s still significant value to such contests, financially and otherwise.

“Being able to give people of all ages and backgrounds equal access to space, and in turn, the opportunity to lead and inspire others back on Earth, is what Virgin Galactic has been building towards for the past two decades,” Virgin Galactic’s billionaire founder, Richard Branson, said today in a news release.

Branson himself broke the good news to Keisha Schahaff at her home on the Caribbean island of Antigua. Schahaff had entered a contest arranged in collaboration with the Omaze online sweepstakes platform and a nonprofit group called Space for Humanity this summer. She ended up winning the random drawing. Her grand prize? Two tickets for a ride on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo Unity rocket plane, plus terrestrial travel expenses.

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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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Famed designer enlisted for space training complex

The French designer who created the look for Virgin Galactic, Spaceport America and Axiom Space’s orbital habitat has taken on yet another space-centric project: the space training complex planned by a Seattle-based venture called Orbite.

Orbite says Philippe Starck will design its Astronaut Training and Spaceflight Gateway Complex, which is expected to consist of multiple buildings and go into operation at a U.S. location in late 2023 or 2024.

For now, that’s about all that can be said about the project. Further details, including the site selected for the complex and the specifics of Starck’s vision for the facility, will be announced in the months ahead.

“We will have to wait a little more during the winter,” Orbite co-founder Nicolas Gaume said. “We thought it was great to announce that such an amazing designer, who shares so much of our vision for astronaut orientation, preparation and training, could be disclosed.”

The 72-year-old Starck has designed projects ranging from hotels and yachts (including a yacht for the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs) to bathroom accessories. But he’s best-known for his space-related projects, including the Virgin Galactic logo that incorporates a close-up of billionaire founder Richard Branson’s iris.

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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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Two techies will fly on Blue Origin’s next space trip

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture says two successful tech entrepreneurs will be part of the lineup for its next suborbital trip on Oct. 12 — but for now, it’s keeping mum on reports that Star Trek captain William Shatner will also fly.

The first two people on the flight manifest are Planet Labs co-founder Chris Boshuizen and Glen de Vries, the co-founder of Medidata Solutions. De Vries is now the vice chair of life sciences and healthcare at Dassault Systèmes, which acquired Medidata, the world’s most used clinical research platform, in 2019.

Blue Origin said they’ll be joined by two other fliers whose names will be announced “in the coming days.”

The company didn’t disclose how much any of the customers will be paying for their trips — and didn’t address last week’s report by the TMZ celebrity news outlet that the fliers would include Shatner, who played Captain James T. Kirk on the original “Star Trek” series and in a string of movies that followed.

Next month’s suborbital launch from Blue Origin’s West Texas spaceport would follow up on the company’s first crewed spaceflight in July. The riders for that flight included Bezos himself, as well as his brother, Mark; aviation pioneer Wally Funk, who at the age of 82 became the world’s oldest person to go into space; and Dutch student Oliver Daemen, who became the world’s youngest spaceflier at 18.

If Shatner flies next month at the age of 90, he would set a new record as the oldest person to fly in space.