Blue Origin resumes launch today, Gopi Thotakura set to become first Indian space tourist

Blue Origin resumes launch today, Gopi Thotakura set to become first Indian space tourist

Jeff Bezos-backed Blue Origin is all set to resume flights to space almost two years after a 2022 mission failure brought crewed operations to a pause.

The NS-25 mission will lift off from Launch Site One in West Texas at or after 8.30 am CT on May 19 (7 pm IST). The upcoming NS-25 mission will have six crew members, including Gopi Thotakura, a commercial jet pilot and entrepreneur, who will become the first Indian space tourist.

The flight will also have former Air Force Captain Ed Dwight, the first Black astronaut candidate in the United States.

This mission will be the seventh human flight for the New Shepard program and the 25th in its history. To date, the program has flown 31 humans above the Kármán line.

In September 2022, the New Shepard rocket was grounded after an uncrewed mission failed roughly a minute after liftoff from Texas, forcing the rocket’s capsule full of NASA experiments to safely eject mid-flight.

Festive offer

The US Federal Aviation Administration closed its review of Blue Origin’s New Shepard investigation last year, agreeing with the company’s findings. It required Blue Origin to make 21 corrective actions, including an engine redesign and “organisational changes”.

blue origin The New Shepard crew capsule in the West Texas desert following NS-24 on December 19, 2023. (Source: Blue Origin website)

How does New Shepard carry humans to edge of space?

New Shepard astronauts ascend toward space at more than three times the speed of sound, passing the Kármán line, the internationally recognised boundary of space 62 miles (100 km) above Earth. After spending time in zero gravity, the crew returns under parachutes.

Ahead of a spaceflight, a two-day  on-site astronaut training program briefs astronauts New Shepard’s mission profile, safety systems, zero-g protocols, and execute mission simulations.

After the spaceflight, nearly 99% of New Shepard’s dry mass is reused, including its capsule, booster, and engine. Its engine is fueled by highly efficient liquid oxygen and hydrogen. During flight, the only byproduct of New Shepard’s engine combustion is water vapor with no carbon emissions.

Meet the crew

The crew flying the NS-25 mission includes Mason Angel, Sylvain Chiron, Kenneth L. Hess, Carol Schaller, Gopi Thotakura, and former Air Force Captain Ed Dwight, who was selected by President John F Kennedy in 1961 as the nation’s first Black astronaut candidate but was never granted the opportunity to fly to space.

blue origin A rendering of Blue Origin’s Blue Moon lander that will return astronauts to the Moon as part of NASA’s Artemis program. (Source: Blue Origin website)

Mason is the founder of Industrious Ventures, a venture capital fund supporting early-stage companies that enable or progress new industrial revolutions. Meanwhile, Sylvain is the founder of one of the largest craft breweries in France and Ken is a software engineer and entrepreneur.

Carol is a retired Certified Public Accountant, while Gopi Thotakura is a pilot and aviator, and also the co-founder of Preserve Life Corp, a global center for holistic wellness and applied health located near Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

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