The New Shepard program’s 21st flight took place on June 4th, when Blue Origin completed its fifth human spaceflight. The astronaut crew consisted of Evan Dick, Katya Echazarreta, Hamish Harding, Victor Correa Hespanha, Jaison Robinson, and Victor Vescovo.
The New Shepard booster was fueled with liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen three hours before launch, and crew boarding began 45 minutes before the scheduled liftoff time. The launch took place at Blue Origin’s Launch Site One in the west Texas desert. The Jeff Bezos-owned Corn Ranch land parcel near Van Horn was the location of the complex. Twenty New Shepard launches, as well as numerous engine firing tests developed by Blue Origin, have taken place at the site.
According to Blue Origin, the crew capsule arced to an apogee, or high point, of 351,815 feet (107 kilometers) above sea level, reaching a peak speed of 2,240 mph (3,604 kilometers per hour).
Before the spacecraft descended back into the upper atmosphere, the passengers made their way back to their seats, preparing for parachute release and a landing on the desert floor a few miles from the launch site. According to Blue Origin, the entire trip, from takeoff to landing, will last 10 minutes, and 5 seconds.
A few minutes before the capsule returned, the reusable rocket completed its own precise fall back to Earth and nailed a propulsive vertical touchdown on a landing platform. The launch was the seventh use of this specific rocket and the 21st for a New Shepard booster.
The crew of NS-21
Astronaut Evan Dick
Evan Dick, who was part of the crew of the NS-21 spacecraft, has been up in space twice in the last six months. Michael Strahan, a former NFL player and co-host of ABC’s “Good Morning America”, Laura Shepard Churchley, the daughter of Apollo 11 astronaut Alan Shepard, and three other passengers flew with him on the NS-19 spacecraft in December 2021. Evan Dick is a former senior executive of D.E. Shaw and Highbridge Capital, an engineer, sailor, diver, motorcyclist, and licensed pilot who volunteers for Starfighters Aerospace. Dick created the patch design for this mission because he felt the NS-19 spacecraft symbolized a lifetime of living under the sea. Several NS-19 astronauts have participated in undersea expeditions.
Astronaut Katya Echazarreta
Katya Echazarreta, a 26-year-old electrical engineer, was also on board NS-19. She was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, and studied electrical engineering at UCLA, graduating with a bachelor’s degree. Katya interned at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) while she was studying at UCLA and also became a full-time engineer there after obtaining her degree. She was a part of five spacecraft missions, including the Perseverance rover and the upcoming Europa Clipper mission, working as a JPL engineer. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in electrical engineering at Johns Hopkins University and mentoring other women and girls who wish to work in STEM fields. Katya Echazarreta will be the first Mexican to fly in space. Because of her work with Space Humanity, a nonprofit organization that chose her out of 7,000 applicants, she will fly in this mission.
Astronaut Hamish Harding
Hamish Harding, a pioneer,r, and businessman, was born in Britain in 1964. He is a graduate of Cambridge University who majored in natural sciences and chemical engineering. Harding was the pilot and expedition director for One More Orbit, a Gulfstream G650 flight that circumnavigated the world in 46 hours, 40 minutes, and 22 seconds, setting a new world record for the fastest round-the-world journey over the poles. The trip started and finished at the Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility.
Astronaut Victor Correa Hespanha
Victor Correa Hespanha, a Brazilian civil production engineer and the second Brazilian to fly in space after Marcos Pontes in 2006, is 28 years old and hails from Minas Gerais. Because the Agencia Espacial Brasileira (AEB – Brazil’s space agency) employed Pontes as an astronaut, he will become the world’s first cryptonaut. The Crypto Space Agency, a consortium that wants to merge space technology with cryptocurrency and financial innovation, provided the seat.
The NS-21 is the world’s first non-fungible token, and Hespanha won it in a draw by investing with the Crypto Space Agency. He wants to be an astronaut ever since he was a child, and soon he’ll be flying as a tourist.
Astronaut Jaison Robinson
Jaison Robinson, a runner, investor, reality TV star, and explorer, is a 41-year-old Chicago, IL resident. He and his wife Jamie founded Dream Variations Ventures, a technology,y, and sports startup investment firm. He has also founded a commercial real estate company, JJM Investments.
Robinson earned a JD (law degree) from the University of Chicago in addition to a bachelor’s degree from Stanford. He also served on the US National Water Polo Team while at Stanford. In 2009, he was a finalist on Survivor: Samoa, skydived, and scuba dived in addition to hiking in Antarctica and scaling Angel Falls in Venezuela.
Astronaut Victor Vescovo
Victor Vescovo, is a private equity investor, an explorer, and a US Navy veteran who has been to the summit of Mt. Everest and the bottom of Challenger Deep. He has degrees from Stanford, MIT, and Harvard Business School, in addition to 20 years of service in the US Naval Reserve as an intelligence officer. He is a multi-engine jet and helicopter pilot in addition to being a certified submersible test pilot.
As an explorer, he has scaled the highest peak on each of the seven continents, skied on the North and South Poles, and dived into the deepest part of the world’s five oceans. During the Five Deeps Expedition, he became the first human ever to reach the Molloy Deep in the Arctic Ocean in addition to visiting Challenger Deep.
Because of this mission, Blue Origin’s NS-21 mission was the company’s fifth crewed launch. The NS-21 mission was also the second New Shepard mission of the year. Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, a competitor in the suborbital space tourism industry, charges $450,000 for a seat on its VSS Unity space plane. VSS Unity has flown to space four times so far, but it has not yet carried paying customers. Virgin Galactic plans to open full commercial passenger service with the vehicle in early 2023.
Space tourism is finally entering a regular operational cycle for Blue Origin after a protracted test campaign and an eventual ramp-up of crew flights, while rival Virgin Galactic aims to resume testing later this year.