Football star and TV celebrity Michael Strahan got a ride to space with Jeff Bezos’ rocket-launching organization Saturday, sharing the trip with the daughter of America’s first astronaut.
Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket launched from West Texas, sending the capsule on a 10-minute trip with the two VIP visitors and four paying clients. Their capsule took off to an altitude of around 66 miles, giving a few minutes of weightlessness prior to dropping into the desert. The promoter likewise returned to land successfully.
It was five minutes and 50 miles more shorter than Alan Shepard’s Mercury departure from Cape Canaveral on May 5, 1961. His eldest daughter, Laura Shepard Churchley, brought a small piece of his Freedom 7 capsule as well as mementos from his Apollo 14 moonshot and golf balls out of appreciation for her father who hit some on the lunar surface.
Strahan packed his Super Bowl ring and retired New York Giants jersey No. 92. “Pretty SURREAL!” he tweeted on the eve of the launch, postponed two days by hazardously high wind. Bezos reserved a football in the capsule too, to be awarded to the Pro Football Hall of Fame following the flight.
Bezos, who traveled to space in July in a similar capsule, went with the six travelers to the launch pad close to Van Horn. He had “Light this candle” painted on the launch tower’s bridge, acquiring from Alan Shepard’s popular issue from inside Freedom 7 as the postponements mounted: “Why don’t you fix your little problem and light this candle?”
Shepard Churchley volunteered for Blue Origin’s third traveler flight. She heads the board of trustees for the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation.
“It’s kind of fun for me to say that an original Shepard will fly on the New Shepard,” she said in a preflight Blue Origin video.
Bezos, who established Amazon six years before Blue Origin, was on the debut launch in July. The second, in October, included actor William Shatner — Captain James Kirk of TV’s original “Star Trek.” The late Leonard Nimoy’s daughter sent up a necklace with a “Vulcan Salute” charm on this flight, out of appreciation for the show’s original Mr. Spock.
The reusable, automated capsule was particularly packed this time. Rather than four, there were six flying.
Among the four space tourists paying unknown millions each were the first father-son combo: Financier Lane Bess and his son Cameron. Likewise flying: Voyager Space chairman and CEO Dylan Taylor and investor Evan Dick.
Blue Origin dedicated Saturday’s launch to Glen de Vries, who launched into space with Shatner in October yet died one month after the fact in a plane accident.
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