Blue Origin's 20th Mission to Space Blasts Off with Crew That Includes Company Rocket Architect

Blue Origin moved forward with its space launch, sans original crew member Pete Davidson, on Thursday

Blue Origin
Blue Origin crew. Photo: Blue Origin/Instagram

Blast off!

Blue Origin launched its 20th trip to space, and fourth crewed mission, on Thursday morning.

The six person crew's New Shepard rocket took off from Launch Site One in West Texas just before 9 a.m CST. The company's 11-minute flights let ticket holders "travel over 3X the speed of sound to pass the Kármán Line at 100 km (62 mi), float weightless for several minutes, and witness life-changing views of Earth before descending gently under parachutes," per Blue Origin's website.

The crew for the New Shepard flight included Marty Allen, an angel investor and CEO of Party America, as well as Sharon Hagle, founder of the SpaceKids Global nonprofit, which supports young girls through STEAM+ education, and her husband Marc Hagle, president and CEO of Tricor International.

New Shepard Chief Architect Gary Lai was a late addition to the crew after Blue Origin had originally scheduled comedian Pete Davidson to fly. But the Saturday Night Live star was unable to join due to a scheduling conflict after the flight's original date was moved from March 23.

Lai has spent over a decade working with Blue Origin — and was even one of the company's first 20 employees.

As the Senior Director and Chief Architect of the New Shepard vehicle, he is "responsible for all next generation designs, upgrades, and new product developments," the company said.

After returning back to Earth following the successful flight, Lai said he was "so overcome" with emotion.

"I will never forget it," he remarked.

Other crew members included Jim Kitchen, a teacher at the University of North Carolina, entrepreneur and explorer who has visited all 193 U.N. recognized countries, as will Dr. George Nield, the president of Commercial Space Technologies, LLC, who has previously worked with the FAA, U.S. Air Force Academy, and NASA.

Blue Origin has famously invited a handful of celebrities to join their flights, including Star Trek star William Shatner and former NFL player Michael Strahan. Blue Origin and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos also went for a ride in June 2021.

RELATED VIDEO: William Shatner and Blue Origin Passengers Float In Space

​​As part of the mission, all passengers carried a postcard for Blue Origin's foundation Club for the Future and their Postcards to Space program, which gives students access to space on Blue Origin's rockets.

The organization's mission is to inspire future generations to pursue STEM for the benefit of the Earth.

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