Passengers on Blue Origin’s latest sub-orbital space flight were profoundly moved by their experience of looking down on Earth. Rose Dykins reports
On June 4, 2022, Blue Origin successfully completed its fifth human spaceflight – the 21st sub-orbital trip for its New Shephard rocket – and the passengers have shared what it felt like to be on board.
The astronaut crew on board Blue Origin’s fifth civilian flight were Evan Dick, Katya Echazarreta, Hamish Harding, Victor Correa Hespanha, Jaison Robinson, and Victor Vescovo.
They bring the space company’s total passengers to travel on its New Shephard spacecraft to 25. Now, a total of 627 people have flown above the US-recognised boundary of 50 miles separating earth from space.
All six members of the latest passenger crew agreed that their ten-minute sub-orbital journey was spectacular, and that looking back down on Earth from 66.5 miles above had a profound effect on them (something astronauts call the “Overview Effect”).
Speaking to Space.com, Echazaretta – whose seat aboard New Shepard was the first to be sponsored by Space for Humanity’s Civilian Astronaut Programme – said: “I can assure you that nobody can truly imagine it until they experience it. Even now, just thinking back kind of makes my eyes teary.
“As soon as I looked at our planet, I had just a single tear running down my face and I didn’t even notice. I felt the wetness on my face and I touched it and I realised what was happening. It was just realising how connected we really are to our planet and how important it is for us to take care of what we have here.”
Phil Joyce, senior vice-president of New Shephard, said: “It was an honour to fly this special crew of explorers and true pioneers today. Each mission is an opportunity to provide another six people the life-changing experience of witnessing the beauty and fragility of our planet from space. It’s one step in realising our vision of millions of people living and working in space for the benefit of Earth.”
Two members of the fifth Blue Origin human space flight – Hamish Harding and Victor Vescovo – have also set a world record by becoming the first ever crew to fly to space and dive to the bottom of the world.
Speaking to The Times, Vescovo, a submersible pilot, said: “I’ve had the privilege of going to the bottom of the five oceans… where it’s much more peaceful and serene and dark and mysterious. Going to space you can see the entire expanse of the Earth and all the people below us and it’s just extraordinary to see the two halves of the coin of our existence.”
Harding said: “The Earth was what I was waiting to see, and it was as spectacular as I had been told it would be. Looking down on Earth, we should all work a lot better together. That was the Overview Effect that I’ve heard about, and there is so much wasted effort on this planet not working together. The world [could] move forward so much faster and more productively if we all did.”
Founded by Jeff Bezos, Blue Origin envisions a future where millions of people are living and working in space. The company is developing partially and fully reusable space craft that are relatively low-cost, with the aim of developing a model for more sustainable space travel.
Blue Origin is currently developing New Glenn, a rocket capable of carrying people and payloads to Earth’s orbit and beyond, paving the way for industrial operations in space.