That’s two out of two successful crewed launches for Blue Origin, as the company today sent a crew of four people, including actor William Shatner, to space and back from its facility in West Texas.
The mission, dubbed NS-18, is the fifth rocket launch for the company this year and the eighteenth for the company overall.
The crew included Shatner, who is arguably best-known for having played Captain James T. Kirk on “Star Trek”; Audrey Powers, a Blue employee who serves as the company’s vice president of New Shepard Mission & Flight Operations; Chris Boshuizen, co-founder of Planet Labs and current partner at venture capital firm DCVC; and Glen de Vries, co-founder of the clinical trial software company Medidata Solutions.
Shatner, who is 90, is now the oldest person to reach space, an honor that was previously held by 82-year-old Wally Funk (who flew on Blue’s previous launch in July).
The launch started at around 10:50 AM ET, then the rocket pushed past the Kármán Line — an internationally recognized boundary of space. Around this time, the crew experienced a few minutes of weightlessness. The capsule landed autonomously using a parachute back at the launch facility around 11 minutes later. The booster also landed autonomously near the launch pad.
The successful launch is great news for Blue Origin, which wants to establish itself as a leading player in the burgeoning space tourism industry. But the past few weeks haven’t been completely smooth for the company, which was founded by billionaire Jeff Bezos in 2000. Late last month, 21 current and former employees jointly composed an essay alleging that the company’s workplace was one marred by sexual harassment and a lack of proper regard for safety.
The document seemed to have caught the attention of the Federal Aviation Administration, who told TechCrunch, “The FAA takes every safety allegation seriously, and the agency is reviewing the information.”
Blue Origin faces competition in the space tourism market from competitors like Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, which conducted its own successful crewed launch this summer, and SpaceX, which carried the Inspiration4 crew to space on a three-day journey in September.
Rewatch the launch here: