Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin Set to Send William Shatner to Edge of Space

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The latest flight for the fledgling space-tourism industry comes as aviation regulators assess allegations regarding safety

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The mission follows other space flights orchestrated by private companies aimed at people who are not traditional astronauts. In July, Blue Origin took over Mr. Bezos and Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc.

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Its founder Richard Branson was driven to the edge of space and returned to the ground, while Elon Musk’s SpaceX last month completed a three-day orbital mission paid for by the chief executive of a paid company.

Shatner, who played Captain Kirk in the original “Star Trek” series, and Audrey Powers, Blue Origin’s vice president of mission and flight operations, are not paying for their tickets, with the company asking them to guest on the flight. has been described in .

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“I would be fascinated by the space scene,” said 90-year-old Mr. Shatner in a video that Blue Origin posted online Tuesday.

According to Blue Origin, two others—Glenn de Vries, co-founder of clinical-research software company Medidata Solutions, and Chris Boshuizen, co-founder of Earth data company Planet Labs Inc.—paid for their tickets. The company did not disclose prices, and Mr. Boshuizen and Mr. de Vries declined to comment on costs.

Mr Boshuizen said in an interview earlier this month that he wanted to travel because he has been trying to make human space flight a reality for the rest of his career. “It’s just something I believe in very strongly,” he said.

The flight is expected to last about 11 minutes and cross a boundary for space called the Karman Line, about 62 miles above Earth. Passengers will travel in a crew capsule parked atop one of the company’s rockets, which is slated to explode from the launchpad at Blue Origin’s facility in West Texas.

The increase in human space flight, controlled by commercial space enterprises, is part of a broader wave of interest by entrepreneurs and investors in space as a site for economic activity. The startup has developed businesses to help launch rockets, as well as provide fuel for satellites and capture and sell data about Earth. Large aerospace companies have also invested in vehicles and services.

According to analysts at UBS, space tourism could generate about $4 billion in annual revenue by 2030. Ticket prices, however, are out of reach for most people, with Virgin Galactic, for example, charging at least $450,000 per seat.

For companies going into space tourism, “the key question is what happens when they run away from specialized customers” such as wealthy people, said University of Central Florida professor Roger Handberg, who studies space policy. .

In September, in a letter posted online, some current and former Blue Origin employees alleged sexual harassment cases at the company, saying that at times speed was prioritized over safety. One person publicly signed the letter.

According to the letter, the desire to compete with Musk and demonstrate progress to Mr Bezos “appears to take precedence over security concerns that would have slowed down the schedule.”

Blue Origin has stated that it has no tolerance for discrimination or harassment and that there are several ways for employees to provide information about misconduct. The company also said that it believes in its safety record.

Blue Origin said the New Shepard, the rocket that lifted Mr Bezos in July and is set to launch to the crew on Wednesday, is the safest space vehicle ever built.

The Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates space launches and re-entries, is looking into the safety allegations. A spokesman for the agency said the review is ongoing. Blue Origin did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

[email protected] . on Micah Maidenberg

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