On 20 July 2021 Blue Origin carried out its first manned suborbital flight. The founder of the firm, the American billionaire Jeff Bezos, actually took part in the journey. A little less than three months later, the launcher/capsule duo New Shepard again took off from Texas with passengers on board.


The NS-18 flight (for the 18th New Shepard flight) used the NS-4 launcher and the RSS First Step capsule. RSS means Reusable Space Ship, as these spacecraft have been designed to undertake several missions.
The four passengers included first of all two customers: Chris Boshuizen (former NASA engineer and co-founder of Planet Labs) and Glen de Vries (co-founder of Medidata Solutions). They were accompanied by Audrey Powers, Vice-Chair of Blue Origin in charge of New Shepard’s operations, and the Canadian actor William Shatner. He is known for his performance as Jim Kirk, the iconic captain of the Starship Enterprise in the Star Trek SF series.

Below, the recording of Blue Origin’s live feed for the NS-18 flight from Texas.

Take-off took place at 9.49 local time (14.49 Universal Time) and the capsule landed 10 minutes and 17 seconds later, after reaching an altitude of 107 km. The internationally recognised space border of 100 km was therefore crossed.
After coming out of the capsule when it landed, William Shatner, visibly moved by the experience and the view of the Earth from up there, was keen to express his feelings to Jeff Bezos. “Everyone should see that,” he said in front of the cameras in attendance, insisting on the beauty of the blue colour of our mother Earth. Below, another Blue Origin video shows what was happening in the capsule at the apogee (the highest point of its trajectory). It can be seen that William Shatner spends most of his time in weightlessness in front of the porthole.

55 years after the first broadcast of the original Star Trek series, Captain Jim Kirk thus reached space in a different way than through sets and special effects. At 90 years of age, William Shatner also became the oldest person to cross that frontier, surpassing Wally Funk’s 82 years on the previous manned suborbital flight by Blue Origin. The American John Glenn (1921-2016) remains, however, the oldest person to date in Earth orbit at 77 years on the STS-95 mission of almost nine days on the Discovery shuttle in 1998. Indeed, we should remember that a suborbital flight, like that of New Shepard, while it crosses the recognised space border of 100 km with a maximum speed of about 3,500 km/h, does not go into orbit, which requires a speed of 28,000 km/h.



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