On July 20, Blue Origin launched its first crewed New Shepard mission, bringing founder of the company Jeff Bezos and three other individuals into space. On the NS-16 mission, New Shepard launched from Blue Origin’s Launch Site One in West Texas at 9:12 a.m. Eastern. RSS First Step, the crew capsule, detached from its launcher and climbed to a safe elevation of 107 kilometers before dropping under parachute to a touchdown 10 minutes & 10 seconds after liftoff. About seven and a half minutes after liftoff, the rocket made a powered landing.
Jeff Bezos, the creator and recently retired CEO of Amazon.com, who founded Blue Origin more than twenty years ago, was on board New Shepard. He has put multiple billion dollars into the corporation, which has resulted in the construction of New Shepard and the New Glenn orbital launch vehicle, the BE-4 engine, and lunar lander designs. Minutes after landing, he said, “Best day ever!”
Mark Bezos, Jeff’s younger brother, was also on board, having been requested by his brother to join the flight. On July 1, the Blue Origin revealed that Wally Funk, one of the “Mercury 13” women who finished astronaut medical examinations six decades ago, would be joining the flight. The crew’s fourth and last member, Dutch teen Oliver Daemen, officially joined on July 15. Daemen took the position of the winner of the June 12 auction, who bought $28 million for the seat but was unable to go due to “scheduling issues.”
Funk broke John Glenn’s record of being the oldest person to fly to space when he flew to orbit for the second trip aboard the space shuttle in the year1998 aged 77 years. Daeman, who is 18 years old, broke the record that the Soviet cosmonaut set Gherman Titov in 1961 when he flew a month before his 26th birthday. New Shepard, which began its flight test program in 2015, carried humans for the first time on this flight. All past flights carried just experiments or other cargo, as the spacecraft is designed to fly autonomously.
Blue Origin was sure it was ready to fly humans after a series of experimental flights, culminating in two January and April trips. “To get to this moment in time, we used a meticulous, step-by-step strategy. At a pre-launch media event on July 18, Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith remarked, “We’re ready.”