These are two of two successful crew launches for Blue Origin, as the company today sent a crew of four, including actor William Shatner, into space and back from its facility in West Texas.
The mission, called NS-18, is the fifth rocket launch for the company this year and the eighteenth for the rocket overall.
The crew included Shatner, who is arguably Captain James T. Known for playing Kirk; Audrey Powers, a Blue employee who serves as the company’s Vice President of New Shepard Mission and Flight Operations; Chris Boshuizen, co-founder of Planet Labs and current partner at venture capital firm DCVC; and Glenn de Vries, co-founder of clinical trial software company Medidata Solutions.
Shatner, who is 90, is now the oldest person to reach space, an honor previously held by 82-year-old Wally Funk (who flew on Blue’s previous launch in July).
The launch began at approximately 10:50 a.m. ET, where the rocket pushed past the Karman Line – the internationally recognized boundary of space. Around this time, the crew experienced a few minutes of weightlessness. The capsule landed autonomously using a parachute to the launch facility approximately 11 minutes later. The booster also landed autonomously near the launch pad.
The successful launch is good news for Blue Origin, which is looking to establish itself as a leading player in the growing space tourism industry. But the past few weeks haven’t been entirely smooth for the company, which was founded in 2000 by billionaire Jeff Bezos. At the end of last month, 21 current and former employees Jointly composed an essay alleging that the company’s workplace was affected by sexual harassment and a lack of proper respect for safety.
The document appears to have caught the attention of the Federal Aviation Administration, which told Nerdshala, “The FAA takes every security allegation seriously, and the agency is reviewing the information.”
Blue Origin faces competition in the space tourism market from competitors such as Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, which launched its successful crew this summer, and SpaceX, which took the Inspiration 4 crew to space on a three-day trip in September .
Watch the launch again here: