Blue Origin launch – as it happened: William Shatner launched into space on historic flight

Blue Origin launch – as it happened: William Shatner launched into space on historic flight
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Blue Origin has launched William Shatner into space aboard its New Shepard rocket.

The Star Trek actor has gone where no 90-year-old has gone before, becoming the oldest person to ever fly to space.

According to a live stream of the historic event, Shatner reached an altitude of roughly 350,000ft and a velocity of about 2,000mph.

The trip lasted about 10 minutes, when the capsule fell back to Earth with a parachute.

The New Shepard NS-18 flight was originally scheduled for Tuesday but was delayed due to windy weather at the Texas launch site.

Shatner is joined on the flight by Blue Origin Vice President Audrey Powers, former Nasa engineer Chris Boshuizen and Medidata CEO Glen de Vries.

It comes less than three months after Jeff Bezos made the same 11-minute trip aboard the first ever crewed New Shepard rocket.

You can read how the launch played out in our live blog below, as well as watch a video of the event at the top of this page.

Read More

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Key points

  • William Shatner speaks of ‘life-changing' Blue Origin launch

  • Blue Origin launch overshadowed by safety concerns

Blue Origin shares footage from inside capsule

07:28 , Anthony Cuthbertson

Blue Origin has shared footage from inside the New Shepard capsule while it was at its apogee and the crew members were experiencing micro gravity.

While everyone else was floating around and playing with their zero-G indicators, William Shatner remained by the window looking out at the blackness of space and the curvature of the Earth.

“Oh Jesus,” he said. “Oh God.”

After getting back to Earth, one of the first things he said was “everyone on Earth needs to see this”.

You can read the full round-up of the launch, and watch it all again, right here.

Blue Origin launches William Shatner into space

Key stats from Blue Origin launch

Wednesday 13 October 2021 17:44 , Anthony Cuthbertson

Blue Origin has shared the key mission stats from today’s New Shepard NS-18 launch.

Here’s a round-up of the best ones:

• The crew capsule reached an apogee of 347,539 ft. above ground level (AGL) / 351,186 ft. mean sea level (MSL) (106 km AGL/107 km MSL)

• The mission elapsed time was 10 min 17 sec; the max ascent velocity was 2,235 mph / 3,597 km/h

• 19th consecutive successful crew capsule landing (every flight in the program, including a pad escape test in 2012)

William Shatner tweets from space

Wednesday 13 October 2021 16:36 , Anthony Cuthbertson

As promised, William Shatner tweeted while in space - sort of.

The prolific Twitter user had told his followers ahead of the mission that he had “prearranged a little something” for when he was on the flight.

This is what was posted:

Blue Origin launch video

Wednesday 13 October 2021 16:24 , Anthony Cuthbertson

If you’re only just joining us, you can see the full live stream video of the launch right here.

Blue Origin launch live stream: Watch as Star Trek actor William Shatner blasts into space

William Shatner returns to Earth

Wednesday 13 October 2021 16:17 , Anthony Cuthbertson

William Shatner is out the capsule and he’s emotional. He tries to tell Jeff Bezos what the experience was like but the billionaire interrupts him to call over a champagne bottle and pop it.

“The impression I had, as you’re shooting up,” Shatner said before the interruption.

Finally the 90-year-old is able to continue: “Everyone on Earth needs to see this,” he says. “It’s unbelievable... I hope I never recover from this. I hope I maintain what I feel now. It’s so much larger than me and life.”

 (Blue Origin)
(Blue Origin)

Blue Origin crew emerge from capsule

Wednesday 13 October 2021 16:11 , Anthony Cuthbertson

With the capsule safely strapped down and stairs in place, the crew of New Shepard NS-18 are ready to emerge from the second-ever crewed Blue Origin flight.

Jeff Bezos is among the friends and family waiting on the ground to greet them.

“Welcome to Earth,” the billionaire screams through the hatch.

 (Blue Origin)
(Blue Origin)

Blue Origin recovery crew on their way

Wednesday 13 October 2021 16:05 , Anthony Cuthbertson

All four crew members appear to have given the thumbs up signal from their window seats, as the Blue Origin recovery crew make their way to help them out.

Blue Origin capsule touchdown

Wednesday 13 October 2021 16:02 , Anthony Cuthbertson

In a big puff of dust, the Blue Origin capsule has touched down safely in the Texas desert.

 (Blue Origin)
(Blue Origin)

Blue Origin rocket lands back on Earth

Wednesday 13 October 2021 15:59 , Anthony Cuthbertson

It still looks like CGI each time these reusable rockets land but the New Shepard NS-18 has successfully returned to Earth.

 (Blue Origin)
(Blue Origin)

Blue Origin launch is ‘nominal'

Wednesday 13 October 2021 15:56 , Anthony Cuthbertson

Having reached apogee, the New Shepard capsule and rocket booster are on their way back to Earth.

Blue Origin has described the flight so far as “nominal”, meaning everything has gone exactly according to plan.

Wednesday 13 October 2021 15:51 , Anthony Cuthbertson

 (Blue Origin)
(Blue Origin)

We have lift off!

Wednesday 13 October 2021 15:50 , Anthony Cuthbertson

New Shepard has lifted off!

T-minus 1 minute

Wednesday 13 October 2021 15:49 , Anthony Cuthbertson

The gantry has retracted and final checks are complete. Just 60 seconds to go until launch.

T-5 mins

Wednesday 13 October 2021 15:45 , Anthony Cuthbertson

We’re all clear for launch - less than five minutes to go...

Blue Origin launch and landing - what to expect

Wednesday 13 October 2021 15:40 , Anthony Cuthbertson

Here’s a diagram showing what to expect after lift-off.

Once above 100km, the crew will experience three to four minutes of microgravity, allowing them to unbuckle and float around the capsule.

The whole thing, from lift-off to landing, takes around 11 minutes.

 (Blue Origin)
(Blue Origin)

Blue Origin launch back on!

Wednesday 13 October 2021 15:37 , Anthony Cuthbertson

After a 15 minute wait, Blue Origin has restarted its launch countdown.

We’re at T-12 minutes, with lift-off set for around 9.45am local time.

Blue Origin crew enjoy view from the window

Wednesday 13 October 2021 15:35 , Anthony Cuthbertson

Unlike the recent SpaceX mission, each of today’s four crew members has a window seat.

The design of the New Shepard capsule is curtailed to space tourists, as the entire flight is automated. There are no controls or anything else that crew members have to worry about - except in emergency - so they can sit back and enjoy the view.

 (Blue Origin)
(Blue Origin)

Blue Origin crew receive messages from predecessors

Wednesday 13 October 2021 15:28 , Anthony Cuthbertson

While the launch remains on hold, Blue Origin is taking the opportunity to convey messages from the only other people who have made this journey aboard a New Shepard rocket: the NS-16 crew.

They include words of encouragement and a plea to “savour” every second of the 11 minutes they will spend heading to and from space.

82-year-old Wally Funk, who currently holds the record for being the oldest person to travel to space, described it as the “greatest moment” of her life. At 90 years of age, William Shatner should soon break that record.

Blue Origin launch: New Shepard NS-18 hatch closed

Wednesday 13 October 2021 15:18 , Anthony Cuthbertson

Finally, 13 minutes behind schedule, the hatch of the New Shepard rocket capsule is closed.

The job is done by Jeff Bezos himself, with the Blue Origin boss saying a few words to the crew before closing it up.

Almost immediately, the launch countdown is once again put on hold - maybe to catch up on the time that they’re behind.

 (Blue Origin)
(Blue Origin)

Blue Origin crew enter capsule

Wednesday 13 October 2021 15:11 , Anthony Cuthbertson

The four-person crew enters the New Shepard capsule at T-24 minutes, which is a little behind schedule.

According to Blue Origin’s official schedule, the hatch was meant to be closed at T-29 minutes.

Almost eight minutes later and the tower crew still appears to be filling in paperwork. They’ll need to get closed up and off the ground quicker than it takes most commercial aircraft.

 (Blue Origin)
(Blue Origin)

Blue Origin Crew head up the launch tower

Wednesday 13 October 2021 15:01 , Anthony Cuthbertson

With the crew photo in front of the rocket complete, the crew are now heading up the stairs to the launch tower.

That’s eight flights of stairs, which is no small feat in itself for a 90-year-old. Fortunately Shatner appears to be in great shape and is having no trouble climbing them. Any hopeful space tourists put off by the climb can take heart that SpaceX’s launch tower has its own lift.

 (Blue Origin)
(Blue Origin)

Captain Kirk bags the middle seat

Wednesday 13 October 2021 14:54 , Anthony Cuthbertson

It’s not always the most popular seat in the car but it at least has the best view from the back. William Shatner has wound up in the middle seat at the back, allowing him to see the Blue Origin New Shepard NS-18 rocket all ready and prepped on the launch pad.

Jeff Bezos is driving incredibly slowly towards it. Next stop, crew photos and then loading into the capsule.

 (Blue Origin)
(Blue Origin)
 (Blue Origin)
(Blue Origin)

Blue Origin countdown is back on!

Wednesday 13 October 2021 14:47 , Anthony Cuthbertson

Countdown to launch is back on!

After nearly a half hour wait, everything is set for lift-off and the crew are now on their way to the launchpad.

Blue Origin launch delay continues

Wednesday 13 October 2021 14:38 , Anthony Cuthbertson

It’s been 20 minutes now that the Blue Origin countdown for its New Shepard NS-18 rocket has been on hold.

At least we have a nice sunrise over West Texas to enjoy while we wait.

 (Blue Origin)
(Blue Origin)

Blue Origin launch on hold

Wednesday 13 October 2021 14:25 , Anthony Cuthbertson

The Blue Origin launch countdown has been put on hold.

It’s currently stuck at T-45 mins, meaning the four crew members will have to wait in the car with Jeff Bezos until it gets going again.

This is nothing unusual for a launch like this, as a variety of factors all need to line up before it can take place. It appears that this delay is weather related, with the winds in West Texas slightly higher than desired.

We’ll let you know as soon as we have any updates.

Jeff Bezos wishes Blue Origin crew ‘godspeed’ ahead of launch

Wednesday 13 October 2021 14:20 , Anthony Cuthbertson

Blue Origin boss Jeff Bezos will be the only one heading up the launch tower with the crew today.

He’s actually kitted out in a flight suit and is driving the crew to the launch pad.

He’s surely got plenty of advice and tips to give, having made this exact trip just three months ago.

“You’re about to share an experience that will forever change how you view the world,” he tweeted a few minutes ago. “Godspeed. This is how it starts.”

‘Heads we go, tails we don’t'

Wednesday 13 October 2021 14:11 , Anthony Cuthbertson

The Blue Origin crew have completed the coin ceremony, which they’ll put in their flight suit for luck.

Upon receiving his coin, 90-year-old William Shatner quipped: “Heads we go, tails we don’t.”

They’ll now be heading over to the launch pad.

 (Blue Origin)
(Blue Origin)

Sun rises over Blue Origin launch pad

Wednesday 13 October 2021 14:05 , Anthony Cuthbertson

The sun is rising over West Texas, and we’re finally getting to see a proper view of the New Shepard rocket.

In a few minutes we should be getting an update from the crew members as they take part in the Blue Origin coin ceremony.

 (Blue Origin)
(Blue Origin)

Blue Origin pre-launch schedule

Wednesday 13 October 2021 14:00 , Anthony Cuthbertson

With just one hour to go until Blue Origin’s New Shepard NS-18 mission lifts off.

Here’s what to expect over the next half hour:

T-44 mins: Go for astronaut load

T-40 mins: Drive to launch pad

T-38 mins: Ring road crew photo

T-36 mins: Tower ascent

T-31 mins: Crew ingress

T-29 mins: Hatch close

Blue Origin crew set for coin ceremony

Wednesday 13 October 2021 13:57 , Anthony Cuthbertson

William Shatner and the rest of the New Shepard NS-18 crew are currently in the astronaut training facility, preparing for the launch.

They are about to partake in a coin ceremony that Blue Origin hopes to make a tradition for all future space tourism trips.

It will take place at roughly T-54 minutes, and will see crew members presented with these coins, just like Jeff Bezos was ahead of the first ever crewed flight three months ago.

Blue Origin launch

Wednesday 13 October 2021 13:44 , Anthony Cuthbertson

One of the big question marks over today’s launch has been safety, following claims from former Blue Origin employees that certain protocols were not being met.

“We’re not in a test period anymore, we spent five years testing and now we are in the passenger phase,” the live stream host says. “Safety has never mattered more.”

Here’s how the rocket currently looks on the launchpad in West Texas.

 (Blue Origin)
(Blue Origin)

Blue Origin live stream sees less interest than SpaceX missions

Wednesday 13 October 2021 13:39 , Anthony Cuthbertson

There’s around 18,000 viewers currently watching the stream, which is considerably less than the live streams hosted by SpaceX for its launches. Tests of the Mars-bound Starship prototypes alone receive hundreds of thousands of live viewers.

Is interest in space tourism waning? Or are such trips already becoming normalised? We’re entering an exciting new era of space travel if that’s the case.

 (Blue Origin)
(Blue Origin)

Blue Origin launch live stream is here

Wednesday 13 October 2021 13:28 , Anthony Cuthbertson

With 90 minutes to go until lift-off, Blue Origin has begun its live stream of the launch.

The live webcast of New Shepard Mission NS-18 is currently just some text on a starry background, soundtracked by some pleasant sounding stringed instruments, but you can expect coverage from the launchpad imminently.

You can find it by scrolling up to the top of this page. If you scroll down again, you’ll still be able to see the video while also following the live blog.

Blue Origin launch: Tweeting from space?

Wednesday 13 October 2021 12:44 , Anthony Cuthbertson

William Shatner gave a nod to that unforgettable performance in a series of tweets posted last night before bedtime.

The nonagenarian is an avid tweeter, and was one of the platform’s earliest adopters back in 2008.

Since then he has tweeted more than 100,000 times, averaging more than 20 tweets per day.

He’s not able to bring his phone on today’s flight but he claims to have “prearranged a little something” for when he’s in space.

William Shatner, Rocket Man

Wednesday 13 October 2021 12:32 , Anthony Cuthbertson

With just over 3.5 hours until lift-off, I’ve been killing some time enjoying William Shatner’s under-appreciated side career as a singer.

While “singing” might be stretching the definition of the term, this rendition of Elton John’s Rocket Man is one for the ages.

“Packed my bags last night pre-flight, zero hour, 9am,” he sang, more than 40 years ago at the Science Fiction Film Awards, foreshadowing the exact time of today’s lift-off.

“I’m a rocket, man.”

You can watch it here:

Sign up to our tech newsletter

Wednesday 13 October 2021 12:23 , Anthony Cuthbertson

If you’re keen to keep up to date with all the latest tech and space news, then you can sign up to our free weekly IndyTech newsletter. It includes all the latest news and analysis on everything from the crumbling state of the International Space Station, to the latest updates from bitcoin and the crypto space.

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Blue Origin crew take postcards to space

Wednesday 13 October 2021 12:20 , Anthony Cuthbertson

William Shatner and the rest of the Blue Origin NS-18 crew have penned some postcards ahead of their trip to space later.

The Star Trek actor writes: “This is the most important and practical concept for space use and for aiding in saving planet Earth.”

The three other passengers show the space-inspired pictures drawn by students. They were selected from thousands of postcards from Blue Origin’s foundation, Club for the Future, which aims to inspire future generations to pursue careers in STEM and “help invent the future of life in space”.

Blue Origin launch schedule

Wednesday 13 October 2021 10:56 , Anthony Cuthbertson

Here’s what to expect from today’s launch:

T-7.5 hrs: Rocket rolls out to launch pad

T-3 hrs: Propellant load begins

T-45 mins: Go for astronaut load & proceed to the launch tower

T-35 mins: Astronauts begin load into the crew capsule

T-24 mins: Crew Capsule hatch closed

We’re currently at just over T-4 hours, meaning the rocket is already at the launchpad. The live stream is set to be broadcast 90 minutes ahead of lift-off, in around two and a half hours time.

Blue Origin launch time delayed

Wednesday 13 October 2021 10:31 , Anthony Cuthbertson

Blue Origin has once again been forced to push back today’s launch due to windy weather – but only by 30 minutes.

The lift-off is now scheduled for 9am CDT (3pm BST), with weather at this time currently looking promising for launch.

It will take place at Blue Origin’s Launch Site One, near the West Texas town of Van Horn, where forecasts from Accuweather predict wind falling from 11km/h to 7km/h between 8am and 9am local time.

Here’s how the latest weather forecast looks for the time of launch.

 (Accuweather)
(Accuweather)

Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket cleared for launch

Wednesday 13 October 2021 10:00 , Anthony Cuthbertson

Blue Origin has cleared its New Shepard NS-18 mission for launch.

“New Shepard is go for launch!” Blue Origin announced.

“The mission team has completed the Flight Readiness Evaluation prior to NS-18. This is our final meeting with the engineers and Mission Control team to ensure all systems are go for launch.”

Very little training was necessary for today’s flight, as the entire thing is automated. However, the passengers do need to know what to do in case of an emergency, as well as how to move around safely in zero gravity.

 (Blue Origin)
(Blue Origin)

Blue Origin launch overshadowed by safety concerns

Wednesday 13 October 2021 09:26 , Anthony Cuthbertson

Today’s launch comes just days after reports emerged of a “toxic” work culture at Blue Origin, and claims that it fails to meet proper safety protocols.

There have been just three crewed space tourist missions so far – with Blue Origin, SpaceX and Virgin Galactic each launching one apiece – and in these tentative early days any disaster could prove fatal for the nascent industry.

Senior executives from Blue Origin, however, have strenuously denied the safety allegations made by former employees.

“We’re exceedingly thorough, from the earliest days up through now as we’ve started our human flights,” said Blue Origin’s Audrey Powers, who will be on today’s flight. “Safety has always been our top priority.”

You can read our full story on the claims here.

Jeff Bezos’s space venture Blue Origin plagued by ‘toxic’ atmosphere employees claim

William Shatner speaks of ‘life-changing' Blue Origin launch

Wednesday 13 October 2021 08:24 , Anthony Cuthbertson

William Shatner has spoken about the “life-changing” trip he is about to embark upon aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard NS-18 rocket today.

“We’re just at the beginning, but how miraculous that beginning is. And how extraordinary it is to be part of that beginning.” he says in a promotional video posted by the private space firm to Twitter.

He may claim to be terrified but he’s looking in great shape! He’s also been busy tweeting in the hours leading up to the launch, and claims to have pre-arranged a “special something” while actually in space.

Hello and welcome...

Wednesday 13 October 2021 08:14 , Anthony Cuthbertson

to The Independent’s live coverage of today’s Blue Origin launch from Texas.

It is only the second ever crewed launch of the New Shepard rocket, coming less than three months after Jeff Bezos made the same 11-minute trip.

The most notable passenger aboard today’s flight is 90-year-old Star Trek star William Shatner, who will become the oldest person to ever reach space if all goes well.

The nonagenarian said last week that he was “terrified” to head to space, and has had to wait an extra day for the launch due to bad weather.

Lift-off is scheduled for 8.30am CDT (2.30pm BST) - approximately six hours from now - and we’ll be bringing you all the latest news and updates from Texas right here.

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