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Blue Origin Mission NS-25: Pioneering Space Tourism Resumes with Historic Flight After Two-Year Break

Blue Origin recently resumed its space tourism operations, sending adventurers to the final frontier for the first time in nearly two years. Following a rocket mishap that temporarily halted crewed missions, the company reignited competition in the space tourism market.

On Sunday, six individuals, including Ed Dwight, a Black sculptor and former Air Force pilot who faced controversy after being denied entry into NASA’s astronaut corps in the 1960s, embarked on the journey. The launch took place at approximately 10:36 am local time (1436 GMT) from the Launch Site One base in west Texas, as seen in a live feed.

At 90 years, 8 months, and 10 days old, Dwight claimed the title of the oldest person to venture into space, narrowly surpassing Star Trek actor William Shatner, who achieved the feat with Blue Origin in 2021, being almost two months younger at the time of his launch.

Mission NS-25 marks the seventh human flight for the enterprise founded and owned by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos. He views these short journeys aboard the New Shepard suborbital vehicle as a stepping stone to grander aspirations, including the development of a robust heavy rocket and lunar lander.

“I was the first guy in the world to be famous for not doing something,” Dwight quipped humorously before the launch. “Needless to say, I’m overwhelmed.”

Blue Origin has thus far flown 31 individuals aboard New Shepard, a compact, entirely reusable rocket system named after Alan Shepard, the pioneering American astronaut.

The program faced a setback when a New Shepard rocket experienced a fire shortly after liftoff on September 12, 2022. Fortunately, the unmanned capsule ejected in time, ensuring the safety of potential astronauts.

An investigation revealed that an overheated engine nozzle caused the incident. Blue Origin promptly implemented corrective measures and successfully conducted an unmanned launch in December 2023, setting the stage for Sunday’s mission.

Following liftoff, the sleek and spacious capsule detached from the booster, which leaves behind zero carbon emissions, achieving a precise vertical landing.

As the spacecraft soared beyond the Karman Line, the universally recognized boundary of space located 62 miles (100 kilometers) above sea level, passengers marveled at the curvature of the Earth. They even had the opportunity to unstrap themselves and experience weightlessness for a few moments.

Subsequently, the capsule reentered the atmosphere, deploying parachutes for a desert landing, greeted by a cloud of sand. However, one of the three parachutes failed to fully deploy, resulting in a somewhat firmer landing than anticipated.

Bezos himself participated in the program’s inaugural crewed flight in 2021. Just a few months later, Shatner blurred the boundaries between science fiction and reality by becoming the oldest astronaut ever, decades after portraying a spacefarer on screen.

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