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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

Oct 14, 2021 - Health

Big raises for CEOs of the big Blues plans

Photo: Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The CEOs of several Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance companies received significant pay raises and bonuses in 2020, according to an analysis by AIS Health.

Why it matters: The not-for-profit Blue Cross Blue Shield insurers keep executive compensation more hidden than publicly traded insurers. And the data show pay increased during the pandemic, as insurers retained higher profits due to people delaying care.

Fintech's record year

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Massive venture rounds into fintech companies have ballooned this year, pushing up total dollars invested — in just the first three quarters of 2021 — to nearly double the amount in all of 2020, per new PitchBook data.

Why it matters: The maturing of fintech startups means a growing number of companies are able to raise huge later-stage funding rounds as investors look to lock-in their bets.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
1 hour ago - Energy & Environment

Democrats' clean power outlook is very muddy

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Here are two big questions as a key Democratic proposal to slash emissions from power generation flounders: how much its demise would sap climate protections, and what might replace it.

Catch up fast: New financial carrots and sticks for utilities to deploy zero-carbon power — the Clean Electricity Performance Program (CEPP) — look unlikely to stay in Democrats' big social spending and climate bill.