In a first, Indian pilot Gopi Thotakura takes space tour on Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin flight - Hindustan Times
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In a first, Indian pilot Gopi Thotakura takes space tour on Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin flight

May 19, 2024 08:49 PM IST

Blue Origin space tourism: Gopichand Thotakura, Indian-origin entrepreneur and pilot, is among the six crew members on the Blue Origin New Shepard -25 mission.

Blue Origin's New Shepard took to the skies on Sunday for the first time in two years after pausing its space tourism operations following a rocket mishap in September 2022. This mission marks the seventh human flight for the New Shepard programme and the 25th in its history.

Gopichand Thotakura, an Indian-origin entrepreneur and pilot, is part of the Blue Origin New Shepard -25 mission, which embarked on its seventh human flight on Sunday.(Blue Origin)
Gopichand Thotakura, an Indian-origin entrepreneur and pilot, is part of the Blue Origin New Shepard -25 mission, which embarked on its seventh human flight on Sunday.(Blue Origin)

Among the six crew members selected for Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin New Shepard -25 (NS-25) mission is Gopichand Thotakura, an Indian-origin entrepreneur and pilot. The crew also includes former Air Force Captain Ed Dwight, the first Black astronaut candidate in the United States.

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Launched from the Launch Site One base in West Texas, the company announced the flight on social media.

As the spacecraft surpassed the Karman Line, the internationally recognised boundary of space 62 miles (100 km) above sea level, passengers had the opportunity to marvel at Earth's curvature and experience a few minutes of weightlessness, during which they could unbuckle their seats and even perform activities like jumping jacks.

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The New Shepard-25 was launched from the Launch Site One base in West Texas on Sunday, the company announced the flight on social media.(Blue Origin)
The New Shepard-25 was launched from the Launch Site One base in West Texas on Sunday, the company announced the flight on social media.(Blue Origin)

The programme faced a setback when a New Shepard rocket caught fire shortly after launch on September 12, 2022. However, the uncrewed capsule ejected in time, ensuring the safety of potential astronauts.

Who are all part of New Shepard (Mission NS-25)?

- Gopichand Thotakura, an entrepreneur and pilot of Indian origin, was chosen as one of the six crew members for Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin New Shepard -25 (NS-25) mission.

- Ed Dwight, a former Air Force pilot, who faced rejection from NASA's astronaut corps in the 1960s, is also a part. According to AFP, at 90 years, 8 months, and 10 days, Dwight became the oldest person to venture into space, narrowly surpassing Star Trek actor William Shatner, who was nearly two months younger when he flew with Blue Origin in 2021.

- Mason Angel, the founder of Industrious Ventures, a venture capital firm, is among the crew members.

The six crew members selected for Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin New Shepard -25 (NS-25) mission.(Blue Origin)
The six crew members selected for Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin New Shepard -25 (NS-25) mission.(Blue Origin)

- Sylvain Chiron, the founder of Brasserie Mont Blanc, a prominent craft brewery in France, is also part of the crew.

- Kenneth L. Hess, a software engineer and entrepreneur, has been selected as for the mission.

- Carol Schaller, a retired Certified Public Accountant (CPA), completes the roster of crew members for the NS-25 mission.

Blue Origin's space tourism

Mission NS-25 marks the seventh human flight for the venture founded by Amazon mogul Jeff Bezos. Bezos envisions short excursions aboard the New Shepard suborbital craft as a precursor to larger aspirations, such as developing a heavy rocket and lunar lander.

To date, Blue Origin has flown 31 individuals aboard New Shepard, a compact, fully reusable rocket system named after Alan Shepard, the first American in space.

Six tourist missions have been launched on New Shepard, boasting notable passengers like William Shatner, Michael Strahan, and Bezos himself. Overall, New Shepard has carried 31 humans beyond the internationally recognized boundary of space.

Blue Origin also aims to send humans to the moon in the coming years in collaboration with NASA.

Named in tribute to Mercury astronaut Alan Shepard, “New Shepard” is a reusable suborbital rocket system designed to transport astronauts and research payloads beyond the Kármán line.

"Whether you are an astronaut travelling alongside Blue Origin or dispatching a payload into space, your brief 11-minute journey aboard New Shepard promises to be an unforgettable adventure,” Blue Origin's official website says.

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