The mission comes as aviation regulators assess recent employee allegations over the safety record of Jeff Bezos’ company
Blue Origin launches passengers at 10:49 a.m. from the company’s facility in West Texas. This brought them back about 10 minutes later in a passenger capsule that deployed a parachute for landing. At its peak, the capsule carrying the passengers reached an altitude of 66.5 miles, according to the company.
Mr Shatner, 90, is now the oldest person to reach space. As he exited the capsule on Wednesday morning, he said he was impressed by the contrast of the blue atmosphere with the dark expanse of space.
“Everyone in the world needs to do this,” he told Mr Bezos, who boarded the capsule for the flight with the passengers and met them after landing.
The mission follows other privately orchestrated space flights that are not traditional astronautics. Blue Origin to launch Mr. Bezos and Virgin Galactic Holdings in July Inc.
Separately flew its founder Richard Branson to the edge of space. Elon Musk’s SpaceX last month completed a three-day orbital mission paid for by the billionaire chief executive officer of a paid company.
Blue Origin launched Mr. Shatner, who played Captain Kirk in the original “Star Trek” series, and three others making Wednesday’s flight a high-profile event in news coverage and on social-media platforms. The company livestreamed the flight discussing the effort with its own hosts, just as other space companies, including SpaceX, have promoted their own launches to a wider audience.
Having someone like Mr. Shatner on board helps drive attention to flight, said Joseph Zabowski, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina who worked with Harris Poll to gauge public perceptions after Ms. Bezos and Branson took off this summer. . “For better or worse, celebrity matters,” said Mr. Czabovsky.
Mr Shatner, along with Audrey Powers, Blue Origin’s vice president of mission and flight operations, did not pay for Wednesday’s flight, after the company had previously described them as guests for the trip.
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 has not disclosed the prices, and M/s Boshuizen and De Vries declined to comment on the cost.
Mr Boshuizen said in an interview earlier this month that he believes human spaceflight will become more accessible over time as companies such as Blue Origin are reusing vehicles for multiple trips. “I want people to know that this is for them too,” he said of such launches.
In a letter posted online in September, some current and former Blue Origin employees allege sexual harassment at the company and criticized its security practices.
According to the letter, which one of the people publicly signed, a willingness to compete with Musk and demonstrate progress to Mr Bezos “seems to be prioritized over security concerns that may be slowing down the schedule.” gives.”
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 has stated that it does not tolerate discrimination or harassment and that there are several ways for employees to report misconduct. The company said it believes in its safety record. Blue Origin said New Shepard, the rocket that lifted Mr Bezos in July and launched the crew on Wednesday, is the safest spacecraft ever built.
Blue Origin said Wednesday’s flight was the second time that Blue Origin carried people into space and the company made its 19th consecutive successful landing for its crew capsule. That vehicle is mounted atop one of the New Shepard rockets for space tourism flights.
The increase in human spaceflight driven by commercial enterprises is part of the wider interest of entrepreneurs and investors in space as a site of 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.
The demand for space tourism is still being tested, with relatively few opportunities available for flights. For companies looking to market, “the key question is what will happen when they move away from particular customers”, said Roger Handberg, a professor at the University of Central Florida who studies space policy.
After its capsule landed on Wednesday, Blue Origin said it planned another flight with people this year and is working on a number of voyages for 2022. In July, Mr. Bezos said the company had close to $100 million in sales for a space-tourism launch.
According to analysts at UBS, such flights 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.
[email protected] . on Micah Maidenberg