Blue Origin Flies Tourists Again After 20-Month Pause: Every ‘Space First’ Launched So Far

After Sunday's mission, Blue Origin has launched a total of 37 passengers into space to date.

Blue Origin Launches Third Manned Mission From West Texas
Former NFL star Michael Strahan embraces Laura Shepard Churchley, daughter of astronaut Alan Shepard on the landing pad after they flew into space aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard on Dec. 11, 2021 near Van Horn, Texas. Mario Tama/Getty Images

Over the weekend, Jeff Bezos’ rocket company Blue Origin launched its first passengers to suborbital space since 2022. On May 19, six space tourists were strapped inside Blue Origin’s New Shepard capsule and rocketed to space, crossing the Kármán line—the imaginary barrier that separates Earth’s atmosphere from space—before landing under parachute in the west Texas desert. Mason Angel, Sylvain Chiron, Kenneth L. Hess, Carol Schaller, Gopi Thotakura, and Ed Dwitght made up the crew of the NS-25 mission. Dwight is no stranger to spaceflight as he was selected by the Kennedy administration to train for NASA’s space program in the early 1960s as the first African-American astronaut, but ultimately was not selected. At the age of 90, Dwight finally made it to space, and earned a place in history books as the oldest person to fly to space.

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“I thought I really didn’t need this in my life,” he said on the livestream, “but I was wrong!” Dwight added that the experience was life-changing and he hopes everyone can experience it. 

The NS-25 mission marked the seventh crewed mission and a return to flying passengers for Blue Origin, as the company’s space capsule was grounded following an anomaly in 2022 during the NS-23 mission. Shortly after liftoff, the mission ended abruptly as the launch escape system was triggered due to a booster malfunction. There were no crew members on board that flight, only dozens of scientific payloads containing research equipment. 

Following an investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and a slew of corrective actions, Blue Origin successfully flew again before passengers were allowed to climb onboard. In Sunday’s flight, one of the three parachutes that aid the New Shepard capsule in its landing failed to fully deploy. Blue Origin (and others like SpaceX and Boeing) design their capsules with redundant systems in case of a scenario like this. That means that the capsule is capable of landing safely with only two parachutes. Despite no issues with crew or the spacecraft during Sunday’s landing, Blue Origin said its engineers will look into the parachute anomaly. The FAA commented that it did not feel like the parachute issue was a mishap, which likely means that Blue Origin can keep flying. 

To date, Blue Origin has launched a total of 37 passengers into space. Here’s a look back at some of the company’s milestones during its seven crewed missions:

July 20, 2021: Blue Origin launched its first passengers, which included Wally Funk, who at the time was the oldest person to launch to space at 82. The passenger list also included the youngest person to fly to space, Oliver Daeman, a Dutch physics student who flew in place of his father, a hedge fund tycoon. 

October 13, 2021: Blue Origin launched William Shatner, who broke Wally Funk’s record as being the oldest person to launch to space. He was 90 years old at the time. On this flight, Blue Origin also launched the first father-and-son duo, Lane and Cameron Bess. 

March 31, 2022: Marc and Sharon Hagle become the first married couple to launch into space on Blue Origin. 

June 4, 2022: Evan Dick becomes the first passenger to launch twice, once in December 2021 and again in June 2022. 

August 4, 2022: Blue Origin achieved multiple firsts on this date as Mário Ferreira becomes the first Portuguese person to go to space, Sara Sabry is the first person from Egypt to fly to space, and Vanessa O’Brien earns a Guinness World Record as the first woman to reach extremes on land, sea, and air after crossing the Kármán line. 

May 19, 2024: Ed Dwight dethrones William Shatner as the oldest person to fly to space, helping him achieve a lifelong dream, more than 50 years in the making. 

Blue Origin Flies Tourists Again After 20-Month Pause: Every ‘Space First’ Launched So Far