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Blue Origin announces first crewed New Shepard launch date and auction

Blue Origin New Shepard capsule window view. Credit: Blue Origin.

Today Blue Origin announced that the first crewed New Shepard suborbital flight is set for July 20th, 2021, the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing. One seat will be auctioned to the public.

There had been speculation that Blue Origin would announce pricing for flights but that was not the case. Instead, the announcement was focused on the auctioning off of a seat for the first flight. The company said the funds from the auction will benefit Blue Origin’s foundation, Club for the Future which was created “to inspire future generations to pursue careers in STEM and help invent the future of life in space.”

New Shepard crew capsule. Credit: Blue Origin.
New Shepard crew capsule. Credit: Blue Origin.

There will be three phases to the auction and clearly the average person won’t be able to afford to bid against those with the funds to bid as high as they want. Once again this demonstrates, that as of now, even the cheaper suborbital tourist flights are out of reach of 99% of the worlds population.

Here are the three phases of the auction:

  • May 5-19: Sealed online bidding – you can bid any amount you want on the auction website (no bids are visible)
  • May 19: Unsealed online bidding – bidding becomes visible and participants must exceed the highest bid to continue in the auction
  • June 12: Live auction – the bidding concludes with a live online auction

The auction also comes with some restrictions as to who can fly. In its terms and conditions under Functional Requirements it states the following conditions:

  1. Be within the following height and weight range: 5’0” 110 lbs. and 6’4” 223 lbs.
  2. Dress themselves in a one-piece, zip-up flight suit;
  3. Climb the New Shepard Launch Tower (equivalent to 7 flights of stairs) in under ninety (90) seconds; Walk quickly across uneven surfaces, such as a ramp or a deck with occasional steps.
  4. Be comfortable on the top deck of the launch tower and on the grated gangway to the CC. These are about seventy (70) feet above ground level and are surrounded by balcony-like railings. The view is equivalent to the view from a seventh floor balcony.
  5. Fasten and unfasten his/her own seat harness in under fifteen (15) seconds, which is about as difficult as fastening the seat-belt in an unfamiliar car in the dark.
  6. Sit strapped into the CC’s reclined seat for forty (40) minutes, but up to ninety (90) minutes if there is a long launch delay, without getting up, and without access to a bathroom.
  7. Spend forty (40) minutes, but up to ninety (90) minutes if there is a long hold, in the CC with up to five (5) other people with the CC hatch closed;
  8. Experience up to three times your normal weight (3gs) pushing you into your seat for up to two (2) minutes during powered ascent;
  9. Hear and understand instructions in English from a ground crewmember nearby or from mission control over a radio speaker, in an environment where the noise level can reach one hundred (100) dB during the Flight;
  10. See and respond to alert lights in the CC. At each seat, there is a panel of six (6) lighted symbols to indicate, for example, when to fasten the harness or leave the CC (the lights are similar to the warning lights on a car’s dashboard; the use of corrective lenses is permitted because glasses and contact lenses both function normally in zero-g);
  11. Reliably follow instructions provided either over the radio speaker or via the alert lights;
  12. Experience up to five-and-a-half times one’s normal weight (5.5gs) pushing the Astronaut into his/her seat for a few seconds during descent into the atmosphere; and
  13. Lowering down from the CC’s hatch opening to the ground after landing, which is equivalent to lowering down to the floor from a dining-room table (note that Blue Origin expects to provide the option of using stairs within a few minutes of landing).

Blue Origin pointed out that today’s announcement is on the 60th anniversary of U.S. astronaut Alan Shepard’s historic flight where he became the first American to fly to space. Blue Origin “named our launch vehicle after Alan Shepard to honor his historic flight. New Shepard has flown 15 successful consecutive 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.”

About Marc Boucher

Boucher is an entrepreneur, writer, editor & publisher. He is the founder of SpaceQ Media Inc. and CEO and co-founder of SpaceRef Interactive LLC. Boucher has 20+ years working in various roles in the space industry and a total of 30 years as a technology entrepreneur including creating Maple Square, Canada's first internet directory and search engine.

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