NS-20, Blue Origin’s fourth human flight, is set to launch in just over a week. We’ve been waiting for the announcement of the sixth crew member after Pete Davidson left the crew. Now, that sixth crew member has been announced: Gary Lai, the senior director and chief architect of New Shepard, will be riding the vehicle he’s spent so long designing into space.
Lai will join the five previously announced crew members in the New Shepard capsule on March 29.
One of the first 20 employees of Blue Origin, he’s been working on New Shepard for the last 18 years.
He is currently Senior Director and Chief Architect of New Shepard, responsible for all next generation designs, upgrades, and new product development for the New Shepard business. His prior positions include Senior Director of Design Engineering, System Architect, Crew Capsule Element Lead, NASA Commercial Crew Development Program Manager, Lead Systems Engineer, and Pathfinding Lead with responsibility for advanced research and development. Gary has been involved in product development, strategic planning, and business development for all Blue Origin product lines, including the New Glenn orbital launch vehicle, rocket engine programs, and Blue Moon.Blue Origin update post
The crew of NS-20 is now Marty Allen, Sharon Hagle, Marc Hagle, Gary Lai, Jim Kitchen, and George Nield.
Marty Allen is the former CEO of Party America, where he “lead the company through a bankruptcy restructuring and the acquisition of several competitors,” and former CEO of California Closet Company, where he lead the company to record profitability.
Sharon Hagle founded SpaceKids Global backing 2015. Through annual challenges, the nonprofit aims to inspire kids to pursue careers in space industries. The nonprofit has reached over 100,00 students, in part through its partnership with Girl Scouts of Citrus County. She is joined by her husband, Marc Hagle, who is the president and CEO of Tricor International, a property development company.
Jim Kitchen is a lifelong space fan and explorer. From watching Apollo launches as a child to promoting LEO trips with a startup in his college days, after visiting every U.N. recognized country it is only fitting that space is his next stop.
Dr. George Nield is the president of Commercial Space Technologies LLC. The former associate administrator of the FAA’s company is designed to promote and facilitate space activities. He previously served as the manager of the Flight Integration Office on the Space Shuttle program.
Space Explored’s Take
It’s pretty nice to see this seat going to someone who has dedicated so much of their time towards spaceflight. I had previously questioned whether Davidson’s seat would be filled by another celebrity, as had seemed likely given Blue Origin’s track record.
While celebrities no doubt bring a bit more public attention to the flights, and public attention and interest in spaceflight is a very good thing, people like Lai who have dedicated so much of their lives to creating this technology seem much more deserving of the seats.
All the passengers on this flight have an interest and history with space and are finally getting to live out what is, to so many, a lifelong dream.