The oldest man in space: Blue Origin resumes tourist flights

Blue Origin has announced the resumption of manned flights of the New Shepard suborbital spacecraft. They were interrupted due to an accident that occurred in September 2022. 

New Shepard Accident

The New Shepard accident occurred during the NS-23 mission. It was an unmanned flight. The spacecraft carried 36 payloads provided by various commercial customers.

New Shepard launch. Source: Blue Origin

New Shepard successfully tore away from the starting table and began to rise. But at the 65th second of the flight, when the spacecraft was preparing to overcome the sound barrier, there was a malfunction of the engine. As a result, the automation activated the emergency rescue system. It separated the capsule of the spacecraft, after which it made a soft landing on parachutes. As for the booster, it crashed. Subsequent investigation established that the cause of the accident was the destruction of the nozzle of the BE-3 engine.

The oldest man in space

After the investigation was completed, Blue Origin carried out one unmanned launch of New Shepard. It took place in December 2023 and was successful. Now the company is going to resume tourist flights with passengers. On April 4, Blue Origin announced the names of six people who would soon make a suborbital flight and visit space for a few minutes.

The crew of the NS-25 mission (the seventh manned flight of New Shepard). Source: Blue Origin

Of the six participants in the New Shepard flight, former pilot Ed Dwight received the most media attention. In 1961, he became the first dark-skinned man to be considered as an astronaut candidate. However, Dwight was never selected by NASA. In 1966, he left the United States Air Force and became a sculptor.

If Dwight makes the flight, he will become the oldest person in the world to travel in space. The current holder of this title is actor William Shatner. At the time of the flight to New Shepard, he was 90 years, 6 months and 22 days old.

As for the other participants of the flight, they will be venture capitalist Mason Angel, French businessman and philanthropist Sylvain Chiron, software entrepreneur Kenneth L. Hess, retired accountant Carol Schaller, and Gopi Thotakura, a pilot and founder of a wellness center. Blue Origin has not yet announced the exact date of the flight, but it is expected that it will happen in the near future.

Recall that Virgin Galactic, which is the main competitor of Blue Origin, has decided to suspend all flights for at least a year and a half. It plans to use the freed-up time and resources to create a new Delta spaceplane.

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