NFL great Michael Strahan went to space aboard Bezos’ Blue Origin

Football star and TV celebrity Michael Strahan took a ride into space with Jeff Bezos’ Rocket Launch Company on Saturday, sharing the trip with the daughter of America’s first astronaut.

“TOUCHDOWN has new meaning now!!!” he tweeted after landing.

Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket lifted off from West Texas, sending the capsule on a 10-minute flight with the two VIP guests and four paying customers. Their automated capsule flew to an altitude of 66 miles (106 kilometers), offering a few minutes of weightlessness before parachuting into the desert. The booster also came back to land successfully.

It was five minutes and 50 miles (187 kilometers) shorter than Alan Shepard’s Mercury flight from Cape Canaveral, Florida on May 5, 1961. His eldest daughter, Laura Shepard Churchley, took a small piece of her Freedom capsule with her. 7 as well as memorabilia from her Apollo 14 moonshot. She also packed golf balls; his father hit a couple on the lunar surface.

A co-host of ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Strahan has been bubbling with excitement in the show’s updates all week. He took away his Super Bowl ring and retired the New York Giants No. 92 jersey. Bezos hid a football on board which will go to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

As soon as he got out of the pod, Strahan said he wanted to go back. But Bezos joked that he would have to buy his own ticket next time.

In a video he posted later, Strahan called the experience surreal and incredible: “Wow! That’s all I can say. Wow!”

At the launch complex near Van Horn, Bezos had “Light that candle” painted on the deck of the launch tower, borrowing from Alan Shepard’s famous rebuke inside Freedom 7 as delays increased: “Why don’t you solve your little problem and light that candle?”

Shepard Churchley – who volunteered for Blue Origin’s third passenger flight – borrowed his late father’s line as he shouted “Let’s light that candle!” while waiting for takeoff. A strong wind delayed his flight for two days.

She leads the board of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation.

“I thought about dad coming down and I thought, god, he couldn’t even enjoy what I’m going to enjoy,” Shepard Churchley said after the touchdown. “He was working. He had to do it himself. I went up for a ride!”

Saturday’s launch marks the last this year by private US companies as space tourism finally takes off. Virgin Galactic launched it in July, sending its billionaire founder, Richard Branson, followed by Blue Origin and SpaceX. There are so many flying that the Federal Aviation Administration announced Friday that it will no longer designate who is a commercial astronaut or give wings.

Bezos, who founded Amazon six years before Blue Origin, was at his company’s first launch in July. The second, in October, featured actor William Shatner – Captain James Kirk from the TV original “Star Trek.” The daughter of the late Leonard Nimoy sent a necklace with a “Vulcan Salute” charm on Saturday’s flight, in honor of the show’s original Mr. Spock.

Among the four space tourists each paying unspecified millions was the first parent-child pair: financier Lane Bess and his son Cameron. Also flying: Voyager Space Chairman and CEO Dylan Taylor and investor Evan Dick.

Blue Origin dedicated Saturday’s launch to Glen de Vries, who launched into space with Shatner but died a month later in a plane crash.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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