Space tourism is on a roll
Picture: Agence France-Presse
Space X, Jeff Bezos’ company, successfully completed its fourth manned flight to space in less than a year on Thursday, March 31, bringing aboard six new space tourists.
New Shepard took off at 08:58 local time from West Texas. In only ten minutes, a capsule was propelled by the launcher until it reached space, before descending in free fall towards the Earth, braked by parachutes and then by retro rockets. Up there, the passengers were able to detach themselves from their seats and float for a brief moment in weightlessness.
The five guests paid an undisclosed price for the trip: businessman Marty Allen, husband and wife Sharon and Marc Hagle, respectively head of a charitable organization and a real estate company, business school professor Jim Kitchen, and George Nield, who runs a company promoting commercial space activities.
“Weightlessness is fun, a new and different experience,” said the latter, who is also a former head of the commercial space division at the U.S. aviation agency, the FAA, upon his return. “But the view! It’s just wonderfully inspiring. It’s hard to describe,” he added at a post-flight news conference.
The American star, the king of humour Pete Davidson and boyfriend of reality TV star Kim Kardashian, was originally scheduled to occupy the latter seat, but the company had finally announced that he would not participate in the trip, without giving a reason.
To date, Blue Origin has carried 20 people above the Karman line, which marks the beginning of space according to international convention, at an altitude of 100 km.
New Shepard is fully reusable, and runs on liquid hydrogen and oxygen, which does not release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The billionaire and founder of Amazon Jeff Bezos himself participated in the first manned flight of New Shepard in July 2021. Since then, the spacecraft has also carried the actor playing the iconic Captain Kirk from the Star Trek series, William Shatner, or Laura Shepard Churchley, the daughter of the first American to go into space.
The space walk with Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic share space. In July, the founder of the latter company, the British Richard Branson, had also reached space. But since then, Virgin Galactic has not made a new flight, focusing on modifications to its craft.