Wed, 19 Jan 2022

KENT, Washington: Blue Origin's New Shepard spacecraft will launch on 9th December, its third piloted flight, with a crew of six, including Laura Shepard Churchley, the eldest daughter of Mercury astronaut Alan Shepard, the first American in space, and ABC News host Michael Strahan, officials announced.

The two will travel as guests of Blue Origin, owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, alongside four paying customers, including philanthropist Dylan Taylor, investor Evan Dick, Lane Ventures founder Lane Bess and his son, Cameron.

All six crew members will launch from Blue Origin's launch site near Van Horn, Texas. This will be the third New Shepard flight carrying a crew, and the company's sixth flight this year.

Blue Origin named its sub-orbital spacecraft and rocket after the late Alan Shepard, who travelled into space aboard NASA's Freedom 7 capsule on 5th May, 1961, the second man to fly in space, after Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.

In a video tweeted by Blue Origin, Churchley, 74, said, "It is kind of fun for me to say an original Shepard will fly on the New Shepard. I am really excited to be going on a Blue Origin flight."

"I am very proud of my father's legacy. He was the first American in space and the fifth man on the moon and, so far, has been the only man to play golf on the moon," she added.

While on the moon in 1971, Shepard hit the longest-distance golf drive ever.

Strahan, a former professional football player and co-anchor of Good Morning America, will become the first representative of a news organization to travel into space.

"When I was a young boy growing up in rural Northern Idaho, I thought spaceflight was a possibility that only a handful of astronauts could achieve, and I could have never imagined that would someday include me," Taylor wrote in a blog post.

"To be one of just 600 humans to cross into space since the beginning of time? How could this even be possible? What an extraordinary privilege," he added.

The New Shepard spacecraft is designed to carry passengers just above 62 miles above the Earth, the internationally-recognized boundary between the Earth's atmosphere and space, where the crew will experience three to four minutes of weightlessness.

Blue Origin is competing with Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic for passengers willing to pay more than $500,000 per flight.

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