It has been over a month since Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos announced he was flying to space. After decades of development, and many test flights of the New Shepard rocket, the day finally arrived.
Alongside Jeff was his brother Mark Bezos, aviation icon Wally Funk, and Blue Origin’s first customer Oliver Daemen. This was the first time we’ve seen all the preparations Blue Origin’s makes to launching crew to space.
As we covered in our live blog of the launch, at T-45 minutes, the NS-16 crew left the Astronaut Training Complex and loaded up into a single Rivian electric truck. They drove to the pad for some preflight photos, then went up the launch tower to the Astronaut Shelter. This white structure at the top of the access tower protects the crew and their support team in case of any dangerous issues happening out at the pad.
At T-30 minutes, the crew left their bunker and crossed the catwalk to enter the crew capsule. Along the way, they rang a ship bell in preparation for their journey. While the original T-0 time was at 9:00 a.m. EDT, a few pauses throughout the countdown pushed the new time closer to 9:12 a.m. EDT.
Like the many flights before it, New Shepard performed perfectly. The vehicle launched the crew capsule to above 100 km and the booster landed vertically. The capsule chutes all deployed properly, bringing the new space travelers back to Earth safely.
“Today was a monumental day for Blue Origin and human spaceflight, I am so incredibly proud of Team Blue, their professionalism, and expertise in executing today’s flight. This was a big step forward for us and is only the beginning.”
Bob Smith, CEO, Blue Origin
A historic flight for Wally and Oliver
This flight, while viewed by many as Bezos’ joyride to space, was a lot more for two of the spaceflight participants. Wally Funk, at 82, is the oldest person to ever fly in space; while Oliver Daemon, at 18, is the youngest person to ever fly in space. Both have had ambitions for spaceflight, and Wally Funk worked hard to become an Astronaut in the 1960s but society held her and others back.
In the 1960s, women were not able to become Astronauts, but the Women in Space program was created, without Government sponsorship, for women to undergo the same rigorous physical and mental testing as the Male Astronaut candidates. There were 13 women who graduated through the program and were dubbed the “Mercury 13” in reference to the Mercury 7. Despite their considerable accomplishments, they were prevented from using any of the government facilities, and the program was shut down.
Many of the women continued to lobby congress for change. It wasn’t until the 1980s that a woman in the US would fly to space. Sally Ride took flight on STS-7 on June 18, 1983. Even as women were ‘officially’ allowed into the program, that didn’t mean they were given a fair chance. Wally Funk applied to NASA multiple times in the late 70s, but was denied due her lack of an engineering degree or test pilot background (a degree which some male Astronauts also lacked).
None of the Mercury 13 have flown in space. Until today.
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