“An original Shepard will fly on the New Shepard.” Laura Shepard Churchley, the daughter of the first American in space, will embark on her own journey to space on board #NewShepard on December 9. pic.twitter.com/vQfzTKo1zeNovember 23, 2021
The daughter of NASA astronaut Alan Shepard can't wait to go to space, just like her father, she said.
Laura Shepard Churchley, now 74, is set to fly into space for the first time on Blue Origin's NS-19 flight this Saturday (Dec. 11). She will launch to the skies and back on a suborbital flight, sitting in the company's New Shepard spacecraft that's named after her father.
"I believe he would say the same thing as my children: 'Go for it, Laura'," Churchley said in a Twitter video (opens in new tab) released Tuesday (Dec. 7) by Blue Origin. "I just want to see a space a little closer."
Six people will fly aboard this flight, including "Good Morning America" host and retired football player Michael Strahan. The rest of the crew, besides Strahan and Churchley, includes:
- Dylan Taylor, 51, chairman and CEO of the space exploration firm Voyager Space, founder of the nonprofit Space for Humanity, and co-founding patron of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation.
- Evan Dick, age not disclosed, an engineer and investor who is a volunteer pilot for Starfighters Aerospace.
- Lane Bess, age not disclosed, principal and founder of a technology-focused venture fund called Bess Ventures and Advisory.
- Cameron Bess, age not disclosed, who is a child of Lane. They stream variety content on Twitch (opens in new tab) under the alias MeepsKitten.
Churchley recounted standing outside with her father watching the Soviet Union's Sputnik satellite launch on Oct. 4, 1957, which was the first human-made object made in space.
She then discussed what happened just a couple of years later, before Shepard and the rest of the Mercury 7 astronauts were announced publicly on April 9, 1959. At the time, she was about 11 or 12 years old.
"Daddy announced to me, 'I'm going to be working for NASA. I'm going to be an astronaut'," Churchley recalled. After asking her father what an astronaut means, she said that he told her, "NASA is going to put me into a spacecraft on top of a rocket. The rocket is going to blast me up into space. And I will come back to Earth safely.'"
"And I said 'OK,' have a good trip, Daddy'," she said.
Churchley filmed this video at the Kennedy Space Center's Astronaut Hall of Fame, near Orlando, Fla. The facility includes a statue of her father, which is showcased in the video.
Shepard flew in 1961 on the first human spaceflight by NASA and again in 1970, commanding the third mission to land on the moon, called Apollo 14. Recalling Shepard's first flight, Churchley said she will have a bigger window to look out of than her dad (echoing what Blue Origin often says in marketing materials about its "big, beautiful windows.")
She concluded in the video, "Every night I go out and look at the moon, and say hi to Daddy. It's kind of fun for me to say that an original Shepard will fly on the New Shepard."