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The crew of NS-18, Audrey Powers, William Shatner, Chris Boshuizen and Glen de Vries, with CrewMember 7 Sarah Knights. Photo Courtesy of Blue Origin.

Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin successfully flew William Shatner — Captain Kirk himself from "Star Trek" — and three other astronauts to space for its second human mission on Wednesday.

Why it matters: The launch was another step toward proving the company can safely launch people to suborbital space and bring them back to Earth.

Details: Shatner was joined for the flight by Blue Origin's Audrey Powers, satellite company Planet's co-founder Chris Boshuizen and Medidata co-founder Glen de Vries.

  • Shatner, 90, became the oldest person to fly to space, surpassing Wally Funk, who was aboard Blue Origin's first human flight in July at the age of 82.

What they're saying: "This experience is something unbelievable," Shatner said after returning to Earth and exiting the capsule.

  • "What you have given me is the most profound experience I can imagine," he said to Bezos. "I'm so filled with emotion about what just happened. It's extraordinary."
  • "I hope I never recover from this. I hope that I can maintain what I feel now. I don't want to lose it. It's so much larger than me and life."

How it works: Blue Origin's New Shepard space system is designed to bring a capsule carrying its passengers about 62 miles above the surface of the Earth.

  • The capsule separates from the rocket and the booster comes back down to Earth to land.
  • People inside the capsule experience a few minutes of weightlessness before the craft descends back to Earth under parachutes for a landing in Texas.

The big picture: Wednesday's launch came as Blue Origin faces major questions about how it treats its employees and how its culture may impact the safety of its systems.

  • "That culture has also taken a toll on the mental health of many of the people who make Blue Origin’s operations possible," a letter written by current and former employees released earlier this month says.
  • "Memos from senior leadership reveal a desire to push employees to their limits, stating that the company needs to 'get more out of our employees' and that the employees should consider it a 'privilege to be a part of history.'"

Go deeper: Blue Origin employees accuse company of mishandling harassment allegations

Editor's note: This story has been updated with the details on the successful launch.

Go deeper

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Jan 4, 2022 - Science

Majority of Americans don't want to travel to the Moon

Expand chart
Data: Axios/Momentive poll; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Private human spaceflight has advanced tremendously in the last year, but many ordinary people aren't ready to visit the Moon themselves, according to a new Axios/Momentive poll.

Why it matters: Private space tourism today caters to an ultra-rich clientele, but eventually, the companies making a business out of sending people to space want to widen their reach to many more people.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

British national named in Colleyville synagogue standoff

A law enforcement vehicle sits near the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue on Jan. 16. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

British national Malik Faisal Akram took four people hostage at a Texas synagogue outside Fort Worth on Saturday, the FBI said in a statement.

State of play: Authorities had initially declined to release the name of the 44-year-old suspect or identify the hostages, all adults, though police chief Michael Miller confirmed that one of those held was Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, who leads the congregation.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Concerns grow over CDC's isolation guidelines — Experts warn of more COVID-19 variants after Omicron — WHO recommends 2 new treatments — What "mild" really means when it comes to Omicron — Deaths are climbing as cases skyrocket.
  2. Vaccines: America's vaccination drive runs out of gas— Puerto Rico expands booster shot requirements— Supreme Court blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for large employers.
  3. Politics: Vivek Murthy calls SCOTUS vaccine mandate block "a setback for public health" — Focus group says Biden weak on COVID response, strong on democracy
  4. Economy: America's labor shortage is bigger than the pandemic— — CDC COVID guidance for cruise ships to be optional starting Saturday — The cost of testing.
  5. States: West Virginia governor feeling "extremely unwell" after positive test — Youngkin ends mandates for masks in schools and COVID vaccinations for state workers — America struggles to keep schools open
  6. World: Beijing reports first local Omicron case weeks before Winter Olympics — Teachers in France stage mass walkout over COVID protocols.
  7. Variant tracker