Daughter of pioneering astronaut Alan Shepard soars to house aboard Blue Origin rocket By Reuters
© Reuters. Billionaire Jeff Bezos, founder of e-commerce company Amazon.com Inc, sits with the crew of a scheduled flight before boarding Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket near Van Horn, Texas, the United States, December 11, 2021 . Blue Origin / Handout via REUTERS.
By Joe Skipper and Steve Gorman
VAN HORN, Texas (Reuters) – The eldest daughter of pioneering US astronaut Alan Shepard launched aboard Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin commercial space tourism rocket on Saturday, 60 years after her late father’s famous suborbital NASA flight at the dawn of the space age .
Laura Shepard Churchley, 74, who was a school girl when her father first shot into space, was one of six passengers strapped into the cabin of Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft as she was pulled from a launch site outside of West Texas City of Van Horn took off.
The crew capsule at the tip of the fully autonomous, six-story spaceship is expected to reach a height of around 106 km before falling back to Earth and descending under an umbrella of parachutes to the desert floor.
The entire flight, from take-off to touchdown, should last a little more than 10 minutes, with the crew experiencing weightlessness for a few minutes at the highest point of the suborbital flight.
The spacecraft itself is named after Alan Shepard, who was the second human and first American to travel into space in 1961 – a 15-minute suborbital flight as one of NASA’s original “Mercury Seven” astronauts. A decade later, Shepard set foot on the moon as the commander of the Apollo 14 mission and struck two gulf galls on the lunar surface.
Churchley was one of two volunteer, non-paying guest passengers selected by Blue Origin for Saturday’s flight. The other is Michael Strahan, 50, a retired National Football League star and co-host of the ABC show Good Morning America.
They were joined by four lesser-known, wealthy customers who paid unknown but presumably high sums for their New Shepard seats – space manager Dylan Taylor, engineering investor Evan Dick, venture capitalist Lane Bess, and his 23-year-old son Cameron Bess . The Besses made history as the first parent-child couple to fly together in space, according to Blue Origin.
(Repotring by Joe Skipper in Van Horn, Texas and Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; editing by Daniel Wallis)
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