Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin Resumes Tourist Spaceflights with First Launch Since 2022 Engine Issue

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On 19th May, Blue Origin, established by billionaire Jeff Bezos, launched six passengers from West Texas to the brink of space. This event was the company’s first manned flight since it halted operations in August 2022 following an engine mishap.

Key Insights

  • On 19th May at 10:36 a.m. ET, Blue Origin’s NS-25 mission successfully launched the New Shepard rocket, carrying six passengers to roughly 62 miles above Earth—this was the company’s seventh human spaceflight.
  • Since August 2022, when a mission was aborted due to an engine nozzle failure on an unmanned flight, forcing the New Shepard capsule to execute an emergency separation and parachute safely to the ground, Blue Origin has not conducted any space tourism flights.
  • Aboard the rocket were six individuals: Kenneth Hess, a software engineer and entrepreneur; Carol Schaller, a retired accountant and explorer; Gopi Thotakura, an aviator; Ed Dwight, a retired U.S. Air Force captain; Mason Angel, a venture capitalist; and Sylvain Chiron, a brewery founder.

Ed Dwight: From Historic Astronaut Candidate to Space’s Oldest Voyager

President John F. Kennedy selected Dwight as the first Black astronaut candidate for the United States. Although he completed his training, he was never selected to join the NASA Astronaut Corps. Now at 90, Dwight has become the oldest person to travel to space, just surpassing William Shatner, who set the previous age record during his 2021 Blue Origin flight. 

In the 2023 documentary ‘The Space Race’, Dwight stated that becoming an astronaut was never a goal for him and it was the last thing on his bucket list. However, once the opportunity arose, his perspective shifted completely.

Blue Origin’s Journey: From Inaugural Flights to Space Tourism Milestones

Since its first test flight in 2006, Blue Origin has launched into space 37 times, including the recent mission. The inaugural crewed mission took place in August 2021, featuring company founder Jeff Bezos among the passengers. 

To date, over two dozen people have traveled to space aboard the New Shepard rocket, notable passengers including William Shatner and Michael Strahan, former NFL star and ‘Good Morning America’ host. 

Prior to the 2022 pause due to an engine mishap, Blue Origin had conducted six crewed flights. This incident triggered a Federal Aviation Administration investigation, resulting in 21 corrective measures for Blue Origin. By December, the company had resumed launches with a successful unmanned mission. 

Crew members on Blue Origin’s tourist flights reach the Kármán line, recognized internationally as the edge of space, where they experience a few minutes of weightlessness before the spacecraft descends via parachutes. The crew created postcards as part of Blue Origin’s ‘Club for the Future’ initiative, which sends children’s postcards to space and returns them as space-traveled mementos.

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