Jul 1, 2021 - Science

Blue Origin picks its fourth passenger for first crewed flight

A seat inside of a capsule with a view of mountains out the window

A seat within Blue Origin's New Shepard capsule. Photo: Blue Origin

Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos has invited Wally Funk — one of the women aviators who passed the Mercury astronaut tests in the 1960s — to join him and two others on the company's first crewed trip to the edge of space.

Why it matters: Funk's turn as an astronaut is years in the making, after the Mercury 13 — a group of women who mastered the same tests as NASA astronauts in the 1960s as part of a private initiative — were passed over by NASA.

What's happening: The suborbital flight is expected to launch from Texas on July 20, on the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing.

  • Bezos and Funk will be joined by Bezos' brother Mark, as well as a yet-to-be-revealed auction winner who paid $28 million for their seat aboard the capsule.
  • "I didn't think that I would ever get to go up," Funk, who had a long career in aviation post-Mercury 13, said in a video posted by Bezos to Instagram.

How it works: Blue Origin's New Shepard is designed to take a crew of passengers up about 62 miles above the surface of the Earth using a rocket and capsule.

  • Once at altitude, the capsule separates from the rocket, allowing those inside to feel a few minutes of weightlessness and a view of the Earth against the blackness of space before descending back to the planet under parachutes.
  • Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic is also working toward beginning commercial operations for its suborbital space system sometime in the coming year.
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