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Pansexual astronaut Cameron Bess on launching with Blue Origin and why diversity matters in space

Pansexual Twitch streamer Cameron Bess fulfilled a lifelong dream to go to space on Saturday (Dec. 11), framing the opportunity as an important representation moment for the LGBTQ+ community.

Bess launched on a suborbital trip with Blue Origin as one of six space tourists on the company's New Shepard rocket. They flew with their father, Lane Bess, as one of the mission's four paying passengers that joined "Good Morning America" host Michael Strahan and Laura Shepard Churchley, daughter of the first American in space Alan Shepard, on the flight. 

“My entire life I've wanted to make people who feel like they didn’t have a place feel welcome," Bess, who livestreams under the Twitch handle MeepsKitten, told Xtra in early December. 

"I'm no hero here; I'm just going for a ride," they added.

Video: Watch Michael Strahan and crew float in space with Blue Origin

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Blue Origin New Shepard NS-19 passenger Cameron Bess holds up a toy football while floating in weightlessness during their suborbital spaceflight on Dec. 11, 2021.

Blue Origin New Shepard NS-19 passenger Cameron Bess holds up a toy football while floating in weightlessness during their suborbital spaceflight on Dec. 11, 2021. (Image credit: Blue Origin)
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Blue Origin New Shepard NS-19 passenger Cameron Bess holds up a "Meowdy" message while floating in weightlessness during their suborbital spaceflight on Dec. 11, 2021.

Blue Origin New Shepard NS-19 passenger Cameron Bess holds up a "Meowdy" message while floating in weightlessness during their suborbital spaceflight on Dec. 11, 2021. (Image credit: Blue Origin)

Bess rode into space alongside their father Lane Bess, who is principal and founder of a technology-focused venture fund called Bess Ventures and Advisory, during the Blue Origin NS-19 flight.

The Besses are the first parent-child duo to fly in space together, with Cameron also adding to a tiny number of known LGBTQ+ astronauts who have made it to space, among more than 600 spaceflyers overall.

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Bess carried the pansexual flag with them to suborbital space, along with a paw to represent the "furry" community that has interests in anthropomorphic animals, meaning animals with human-like qualities. (Bess has an entire furry suit they were showing on Twitter, but due to mass restrictions, there was no room for the entire ensemble in the New Shepard spacecraft.)

The new commercial astronaut joins just two other known LGBTQ+ individuals who have reached space: NASA astronauts Sally Ride (now deceased) and Anne McClain (who is still with the corps). Ride only disclosed her same-sex relationship posthumously, while McClain's was made public due to a legal situation with her ex-spouse.

Bess, saying they are very grateful their father is so supportive of who they are, took part in pre-flight activities such as posing with the pansexual flag and signing a commemorative postcard with the word "Diversity." 

"It's cheesy," Bess said of the postcard on Twitter, "but it's a good hope for the future."

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Elizabeth Howell

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a contributing writer for Space.com since 2012. As a proud Trekkie and Canadian, she tackles topics like spaceflight, diversity, science fiction, astronomy and gaming to help others explore the universe. Elizabeth's on-site reporting includes two human spaceflight launches from Kazakhstan, and embedded reporting from a simulated Mars mission in Utah. She holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, and a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University. Her latest book, NASA Leadership Moments, is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday.