Yesterday, Blue Origin conducted the second crewed flight of its New Shepard rocket, which included actor William Shatner, famous especially for playing James Kirk in the “Star Trek” saga. The rocket blasted off from the company’s spaceport in Van Horn, Texas, and after about 3 minutes the spacecraft named “RSS First Step” separated from the rocket and reached an altitude of about 107 kilometers, more than the 100 kilometers of the Kármán Line that officially marks the boundary with space. Both the single-stage rocket and the spacecraft are reusable, so both landed at the end of the flight.
The four passengers of the “RSS First Step” spacecraft were all on their first spaceflight, just like the four of the NS-16 mission carried out on July 20. Audrey Powers is Vice President of New Shepard Operations while Chris Boshuizen and Glen de Vries are two entrepreneurs. However, the most famous passenger was actor William Shatner, who is 90 and set the record for the oldest person to have gone into space taking it from Wally Funk, who set it in the NS-16 mission.
William Shatner didn’t exactly boldly go where no one has gone before but, after returning to Earth, he was visibly thrilled and moved for having the chance to actually go into space, even if only for a few minutes. The altitude reached isn’t comparable to that of missions in orbit, not to mention those in deep space, but it already allows you to have a view of the world below that leads to a different awareness concerning the planet.
Both the rocket and the “RSS First Step” spacecraft were on their fourth flight, further confirmation that the reusable system works well. Blue Origin’s plans involve applying that kind of technology to a much larger rocket to be used for missions in orbit and even in deep space.
The company owner Jeff Bezos which was present and participated in both flight preparation and crew assistance after landing. His company is planning several crewed flights over the course of 2022. Space tourism will be important even if reserved for very rich passengers but flights with scientific instruments are also planned to carry out surveys in the upper layers of the atmosphere and above it.