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William Shatner is about to be the oldest person ever blasted into space. Here’s everything you need to know



Shatner, 90, will become the oldest person to ever travel into space, though his ship will not be equipped with warp drive, conveyors or shields. It will be launching a new Shepard spacecraft, developed by Bezos’ rocket company Blue Origin, along with three crew members: Chris Boshuizen, co-founder of the satellite company. Planet Labs, and software executive Glen de Vries, who will pay both clients, and Audrey Powers, vice president of mission and flight operations for Blue Origin.

His flight is scheduled to leave Blue Origin launch facilities in West Texas at 8:30 a.m. CT Wednesday, a 24-hour delay from the original schedule due to strong winds at the zone.

A cheerful ride aboard a Starfleet spacecraft will not be. Rather, the group will be set inside a capsule at the top of the 60-foot-tall New Shepard Blue Origin rocket, which will rise to about three times the speed of sound and reach more than 62 miles height before returning immediately to Earth. . From start to finish, the trip will take about 10 minutes.

It will mark the second that Blue Origin expects to launch many space cars, bringing wealthy customers and thrill seekers to the edge of space. Still, Bezos is a Star Trek vocal fan and Shatner will fly as a guest for free.

Here’s everything you need to know.

Is it safe?

Blue Origin has made more than a dozen unmanned test flights from New Shepard and Bezos decided to take on the first manned flight in July, in part to show that he is confident in his own life with Blue Origin technology. .

This Blue Origin flight will make Shatner the oldest person to have traveled into space, surpassing the record set a few months ago by 82-year-old Wally Funk, who was a former astronaut in practice but was previously denied. the opportunity to fly before her. joined Bezos on the July flight from New Shepard.

Blue Origin has unveiled at New Shepard a spaceship that virtually anyone can fly with just a few days of light training. While the vehicle will cause passengers to go through intense G-shaped forces as it shoots up and returns to Earth, the journey will not be as intense as orbital flights like the one recently SpaceX operated for four space tourists, which requires much faster speeds and a re-entry process to bite your nails.
(Read more about suborbital versus orbital flights and somewhat arbitrary attempts to define where “outer space” begins here.)

The Blue Origin website lists the following criteria for passengers:

  • You must be over 18 years old.
  • You should be between 5’0 “and 6’4” tall and weigh 110 to 223 pounds.
  • You need to be fit enough to climb seven flights of stairs in a minute and a half
  • You should be able to secure and disconnect a seat harness in less than 15 seconds, spend up to an hour and a half tied to the capsule with the hatch closed, and withstand up to 5.5G of force during the descent.

Still, space flight is intrinsically risky. To hit enough speed and power to defy gravity, rockets must use powerful, controlled explosions and complex technology that always carries some uncertainty.

“I’m really very apprehensive,” Shatner told CNN’s Anderson Cooper last week. “Here is an element of chance.”

From a physiological perspective, however, Shatner’s age should not be a problem, according to Dorit Donoviel, executive director of the Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH), a group of research led by Baylor College of Medicine in partnership with NASA.

Donoviel pointed to one series of studies in which people with pre-existing medical conditions, including older men with heart conditions, which experienced up to 6G in a spinning centrifuge to simulate the crushing forces the body exerts during space flight.

“They were perfectly fine,” Donoviel said. “The only cause for concern when they did these studies (medical condition) was really anxiety and definitely claustrophobia.”

Blue Origin passengers can experience up to 5.5 G, which can also make breathing or hand and arm movement difficult. But they won’t have the stress of flying New Shepard, which is totally self-contained, so they can basically just sit there and wait for the most stressful parts of the trip.

One thing that is absolutely crucial to them, however, is getting back in their seats as soon as mission control warns passengers that the three-minute weightlessness of the capsule is about to end. As the spacecraft begins to fall back to Earth and the crushing forces return, passengers who are not tied to their seat and oriented to the proper position could endanger serious injury.

“If they face the [wrong] so that the g forces could draw all the blood from the head and go down to the feet, in which case the person would faint, ”Donoviel said.

This space flight also comes as Blue Origin faces the reaction of a group of 21 current and former employees, including senior engineers and executives who have worked in various departments and programs, who signed an essay alleging that the company has a grueling job. a culture that makes it impossible for New Shepard rocket engineers to guarantee security. The essay states that many of its signatories “say they would not fly over a Blue Origin vehicle.”
Blue Origin: The essay alleges sexism and
This news also came amid a wave of headlines drawing an internal picture confusion to Blue Origin, including a wave of exits among high-level staff.

Blue Origin did not respond to requests for comment on the security allegations. But the company has repeatedly stated that security is its top priority.

Powers, the vice president of Blue Origin who will fly Wednesday, also responded to security allegations in an interview with CNN’s Erica Hill on Monday, saying the reports did not pause him.

“I’ve been working at Blue on the new Shepard program specifically for the last eight years,” he said. “A team of very talented professionals and colleagues, some of the best I’ve worked with during my 20 years on human spaceflight, have committed to the safety of this program.”

What will happen?

When most people think of space flight, they think of an astronaut orbiting the Earth, floating in space, for at least a few days.

This is not what New Shepard passengers will do. In fact, if all goes well, it should be very similar to the Bezos flight in July.

They will go up and down again and they will do so in less time, about 10 minutes, than it takes most people to get to work.

Visually, the Blue Origin live stream will show the rocket and capsule sitting on a launch pad at Blue Origin’s private facility in Texas, near Van Horn, which is about 120 miles east. of El Paso.

Jeff Bezos will march into space on the first manned rocket flight
New Shepard’s suborbital fights it strikes about three times the speed of sound (about 2,300 miles per hour) and flies straight up until the rocket spends most of its fuel. The crew capsule will then separate from the rocket at the top of the path and continue briefly upwards before the capsule is almost at the top of the flight path, giving passengers a few minutes of weightlessness. It works like an expanded version of the weightlessness you experience when you reach the top of a roller coaster hill, just before gravity takes the wheelbarrow or, in this case, the space capsule, which screams back to earth.
A graph showing the flight profile of Blue Origin's New Shepard.

The rocket, flying separately after being detached from the capsule carrying humans, will restart the engines and use its on-board computers to perform a vertical and punctual landing.

The New Shepard capsule, which transports the crew, will deploy a large plume of parachutes to slow its descent to less than 20 miles per hour before it hits the ground. Passengers will be more amortized by cushioned seats and a “retro-push” system that creates an “air cushion” around the capsule.

What does all this mean?

Blue Origin plans to use New Shepard to compete directly with British billionaire Richard Branson and his suborbital space tourism company, Virgin Galactic.

Virgin Galactic tickets cost about $ 450,000, more than the average selling price of homes in the United States. Blue Origin has not publicly set a ticket price, although it recently sold one at auction for a whopping $ 28 million. Shatner will fly as a complementary guest, though Bezos said in July that the company has sold tickets worth about $ 100 million.

All of this is part of a much broader push by commercial space companies – and NASA – to make space a place of business. The idea is that the private sector can drive innovation and reduce costs, paving the way for a future in which everyday people (not just professional astronauts) live and work in space. This vision has caused many things critic, with skeptics questioning whether we can build a fair future in space if it is only mapped out by those who have the means.

It is also unclear how much interest will be maintained by suborbital space tourism by the richest people in the world. But Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic also plan to pass on their technologies to other companies. In the case of Blue Origin, this includes the construction of a massive orbital rocket for the launch of military, scientific and commercial satellites and a lunar terrier. However, Blue Origin’s proposal to make a vehicle that would land the next humans on the moon was recently rejected by NASA and is now caught in a legal battle.



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