When Bezos' private spaceflight company, Blue Origin, launched the first test flight of its New Shepard Crew Capsule 2.0 this week, it had a very special passenger aboard: a dummy named "Mannequin Skywalker" — which bears a striking resemblance to Anakin Skywalker, aka Darth Vader himself. [The Greatest Star Wars Villains Ever]
In photos, the dummy can be seen reclining inside the New Shepard capsule (through the largest windows ever on a spacecraft) in photos from Blue Origin's Dec. 12 test flight in West Texas. A YouTube video released by Blue Origin Thursday (Dec.14) shows a view of Mannequin Skywalker from inside the capsule as well.
"Full video of Mannequin Skywalker’s ride to space. Unlike him, you’ll be able to get out of your seat during the zero gee part of the flight," Bezos wrote on Twitter of the video. "And ignore the pinging sound – it's just from one of the experiments on this flight."
The dummy was just one of 12 payloads to ride on New Shepard during the Blue Origin launch. A medical device designed to help astronauts in space recover from a collapsed lung also made the trip as part of a NASA-funded experiment. Artwork and an Arduino Nano circuit board sensor package programmed by students at DCS Montessori Middle School in Castle Pines, Colorado, was also among the payloads, as were two experiments from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University to study different effects of weightlessness on mice T cells and genes.
"#NewShepard had a successful first flight of Crew Capsule 2.0 today. Complete with windows and our instrumented test dummy," Bezos wrote on Twitter after the flight. "He had a great ride."
Blue Origin's New Shepard crew capsule is a suborbital spacecraft designed to launch six passengers on short trips into space without entering Earth orbit. The company has not revealed how much such a spaceflight would cost. The capsule features the largest windows ever made for space, launches atop a propulsion stage and parachutes back to Earth while its booster makes its own vertical landing. Both booster and capsule are reusable.
Meanwhile, the science fiction franchise that spawned Mannequin Skywalker's namesake will make a giant leap of its own this week.
"Star Wars: The Last Jedi" opens in theaters nationwide Friday (Dec. 15).
Editor's note: This story was updated at 4:37 p.m. EST to include new comments by Bezos on the new Mannequin Skywalker video.