Update for 9 a.m. ET: Blue Origin reports it is in a brief hold for today’s launch. The clock is stopped at T-10 minutes and holding. See live mission updates.
Jeff Bezos’ spaceflight company Blue Origin will launch six people to the final frontier Thursday morning (March 31), and you can watch the action live.
Blue Origin’s New Shepard vehicle is scheduled to lift off from the company’s Launch Site One in West Texas Thursday at 9:10 a.m. EDT (1310 GMT; 8:10 a.m. local time in Texas). Watch it live here at Space.com, courtesy of Blue Origin, or directly via the company, starting at 8:10 a.m. EDT (1210 GMT).
The mission is known as NS-20, because it will be the 20th spaceflight of a New Shepard vehicle. But it will be just the fourth human spaceflight by Blue Origin, following three crewed New Shepard flights in 2021.
Five paying customers will be flying to space Thursday. They are businessman Marty Allen; philanthropic couple Sharon Hagle and Marc Hagle; teacher and entrepreneur Jim Kitchen; and George Nield, the president of Commercial Space Technologies, LLC. Nield has a long history in the spaceflight field, previously serving as associate administrator for the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation and manager of the Flight Integration Office for NASA’s space shuttle program.
Those five will be joined by longtime Blue Origin employee Gary Lai, the chief architect of the New Shepard vehicle. Lai took the seat of “Saturday Night Live” star Pete Davidson, who backed out after NS-20’s launch date was delayed from March 23 to Tuesday (March 29).
Tuesday had been the target, but predicted high winds on Tuesday and Wednesday (March 30) pushed the liftoff date back to Thursday.
Davidson’s original inclusion continued a trend that Blue Origin established on its first three flights, which all flew celebrities (presumably to help generate public interest and media coverage). Bezos and aviation pioneer Wally Funk flew on the company’s first crewed mission, in July 2021. “Star Trek” star William Shatner flew in October, and NFL Hall of Famer and “Good Morning America” co-host Michael Strahan was on a December New Shepard mission.
New Shepard consists of a rocket and a capsule, both of which are reusable. New Shepard passengers experience three to four minutes of weightlessness during each suborbital mission, which lasts about 11 minutes from liftoff to the capsule’s parachute-aided touchdown.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or on Facebook.