Blue Origin transports the first Egyptian and Portuguese space pilots on a suborbital journey

Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket lifts off its launch pad in Texas. (Blue origin via YouTube)

Jeff Bezos’ space venture Blue Origin sent six more crew members on a suborbital space journey, including the first Egyptian and Portuguese citizens to reach the final frontier.

Thanks to today’s flight from Launch Site One in West Texas, Blue Origin’s roster of astronauts has grown to 31 in just over a year. Bezos himself made the first crewed flight in July 2021, and Florida investor Evan Dick bought two space tickets.

The programming of NS-22 – the 22nd mission of the New Shepard Suborbital Launch System and the sixth crewed flight – has set some precedents.

Portugal’s first astronaut is Mario Ferreira, an entrepreneur, investor and president of Porto-based Pluris Investments. The first Egyptian is Sara Sabry, a mechanical and biomedical engineer who founded a non-profit organization called Deep Space Initiative. Sabry was the second Blue Origin crew member sponsored by Space for Humanity, a nonprofit that supports citizen astronauts.

Rounding out the “Titanium Feather” team are Coby Cotton, co-founder of sports/entertainment channel Dude Perfect; Vanessa O’Brien, British-American explorer and former bank executive; Clint Kelly III, who helped pioneer technologies for driverless cars; and Steve Young, former CEO of Young’s Communications LLC.

Cotton’s headquarters was sponsored by MoonDAO, a crypto-centric collective that aims to decentralize access to space. Although Blue Origin does not disclose how much its space pilots pay for their flights, crypto sleuths have estimated that MoonDAO spent approximately $1.25 million to Cotton’s escape.

Today’s flight followed the routine established by the previous five crewed missions: Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket lifted off at 8:56 a.m. CT (6:56 a.m. PT), sending the crew capsule overhead. beyond the 100 kilometers (62 miles) Karman Line which marks the internationally accepted limit of outer space. The maximum altitude was 351,232 feet (66.5 miles or 107 kilometers) above mean sea level.

During the highest phase of the trajectory, the six astronauts unhooked from their seats for a few minutes to hover in zero-G and observe the curved Earth through the capsule’s glass windows. Crew members could be heard over a comms link exulting in the experience.

New Shepard's booster performs an autonomous landing.  (Blue origin via YouTube)

New Shepard’s booster performs an autonomous landing. (Blue origin via YouTube)

New Shepard’s reusable booster made an autonomous landing on a pad near the launch site. Meanwhile, the crew capsule floated separately towards Texas pastures on the end of its parachutes. “We are not going to die!” said Cotton half-jokingly as the parachutes opened.

The flight lasted 10 minutes and 20 seconds from launch to touchdown.

Blue Origin’s NS-22 mission was part of a one-day launch trifecta that also included Rocket Lab launching a classified satellite mission for the National Reconnaissance Office and United Launch Alliance sending a satellite Space Force missile warning sign. SpaceX could turn the trifecta into a quadfecta later today with the planned launch of a South Korean lunar probe.

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