The first manned commercial spaceflight of Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin is all systems go, with the space company’s reusable launch vehicle New Shepard set for liftoff Tuesday morning. Specifically, Blue Origin hopes to ascend to the heavens on Tuesday, July 20, from Launch Site One in the West Texas desert. A live broadcast walking up to the liftoff starts at 6:30 a.m. CDT/4:30 a.m. PT. The actual ignition is scheduled 90 minutes later, at 8 a.m. CDT/5 a.m. PT. As of Sunday, weather was not a constraint to launch and New Shepard is expected to launch on schedule
Discovery and The Washington Post have announced live coverage of Bezos’ first flight to space. The program will broadcast live on both Discovery and Science Channels at 8:00 a.m. ET and on washingtonpost.com.
The live show, Space Launch LIVE: Blue Origin And Jeff Bezos Go To Space, will be anchored by The Washington Post’s Libby Casey and Discovery’s Chris Jacobs from The Post’s Washington, D.C. studios. It will feature on-the-ground analysis from The Washington Post’s space industry reporter Christian Davenport; commentary from astronaut Leland Melvin; input from Dr. Ellen Stofan, the Smithsonian’s Undersecretary for Science and Research and a team of experts from the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum.
“We are delighted to be joining forces with The Washington Post to once again cover the next major chapter in space advancement,” --- said Scott Lewers, Executive Vice President of Multiplatform Programming, Factual & Head of Content, Science. “With no on-site public viewing areas in the vicinity of the launch site, this broadcast continues Discovery and Science Channel’s mission to bring the world to our viewers.”
“The Washington Post has made a distinct investment in live coverage of major news events, drawing in tens of millions of viewers to its programs featuring the latest developments alongside real-time analysis and commentary from our top journalists,” said Micah Gelman, director of editorial video at The Washington Post. “After the success of our joint coverage of SpaceX’s first crewed mission last summer, we are thrilled to be partnering with Discovery and Science Channels once again to bring this historic launch to the eyes of Americans nationwide as the appetite for space tourism intensifies.”
Tuesday night at 10 p.m. ET/PT, Discovery will air a one hour special, Jeff Bezos in Space: Blue Origin Takes Flight, highlighting the morning’s event, along with post-launch interviews, behind-the-scenes material and background on Blue Origins and Jeff Bezos. The special will also air the following evening, Wednesday, July 21, in primetime at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Science Channel.
New Shepard has flown 15 consecutive successful missions to space and back above the Kármán Line through a meticulous and incremental flight program to test its multiple redundant safety systems. Now, it’s time for astronauts to climb onboard.
There will be four total astronauts six seats. Those aboard include Bezos, his brother Mark Bezos, pilot Wally Funk and the winner of a 7500-person auction for the final slot on the flight. But the winner, who asked to remain anonymous, chose to fly on a future New Shepard mission due to scheduling conflicts. The winning bid amount will be donated to Blue Origin’s foundation, Club for the Future, whose mission is to inspire future generations to pursue careers in STEM and to help invent the future of life in space.
In the winner’s place will be 18-year-old Oliver Daemen. He will be the first paying customer to fly on board New Shepard, marking the beginning of commercial operations for the program.
Flying on New Shepard will fulfill a lifelong dream for Oliver, who has been fascinated by space, the Moon, and rockets since he was four. Oliver graduated from high school in 2020 and took a gap year before continuing his studies to obtain his private pilot’s license.
At 18-years-old and 82-years-young, Oliver Daemen and Wally Funk represent the youngest and oldest astronauts ever to travel to space.
Wally’s journey to space began in the 1960s when she was the youngest graduate of the Woman in Space Program, a privately-funded project which tested female pilots for astronaut fitness. Later known as the “Mercury 13” – thirteen American women successfully underwent the same physiological and psychological screening tests as the astronauts selected by NASA for Project Mercury, but they never flew to space. Wally was the youngest graduate of this program.
She was the first female FAA inspector and the first female NTSB air safety investigator. The 82-year-old pilot will now be part of the first crew on New Shepard, and the oldest person ever to fly to space.
The astronauts spent 14 hours over a two-day span to train for the flight.
The plan is to rollout at midnight, load propellant at 3 hours before launch, load the astronauts load at 45 minutes before launch and close the hatch at 24 minutes before takeoff.
After takeoff, capsule separation should happen at 2:45. They will experience 3-4 mins of weightlessness in and out of seats, then use three parachutes descend back to Earth.
Blue Origin has two more paying flights planned in 2021, one at the end of September and one for the first of October.