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Bezos’ Blue Origin Launches First Crew to Edge of Space Since 2022 Grounding

Bezos' Blue Origin Launches First Crew to Edge of Space Since 2022 Grounding

Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos’ space company, made headlines with the launch of a six-person crew to the edge of space from West Texas, marking a significant milestone for its space tourism business. Among the passengers was Ed Dwight, the first US Black astronaut candidate from the 1960s, who at the age of 90 years and eight months became the oldest person in space.

The launch, conducted using Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket, took place near the remote desert town of Van Horn. The rocket successfully separated from the capsule carrying the passengers, allowing it to ascend further beyond Earth’s atmosphere. Meanwhile, the booster returned to land as planned.

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The capsule, with its passengers, then returned to Earth under parachutes, concluding a mission lasting approximately 10 minutes. While the landing was successful, one of the capsule’s three parachutes did not fully inflate, raising concerns that may require scrutiny before the next flight.

Ed Dwight’s journey to space holds particular significance as he was chosen by former US President John Kennedy in 1961 as the first Black astronaut candidate but had never flown to space until now. His landing was met with jubilation and celebration, with Dwight expressing his newfound appreciation for the experience.

Blue Origin’s space tourism business has previously flown private astronauts, including notable figures like “Star Trek” star William Shatner. While the passengers on this flight were paying customers, Dwight’s seat was sponsored by a space-focused nonprofit and a private foundation.

The launch marks a significant milestone for Blue Origin, as its New Shepard rocket had been grounded since a mid-flight failure in September 2022. The company conducted an extensive probe into the failure and implemented corrective actions mandated by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) before resuming flights.

Despite the successful launch, Blue Origin continues to face competition in the suborbital space tourism market, notably from Virgin Galactic. However, with the resumption of routine missions, Blue Origin aims to solidify its position in the industry while also focusing on the development of its larger rocket, New Glenn, to compete in the commercial satellite launch market.