"Woohoo! We're not going to die," one of the passengers of Blue Origin's NS-22 space tourist mission could be heard screaming on the livestream of the mission today (Aug. 4). "Our poor families!"
Shortly after landing in the West Texas desert — and not dying — the crew of Blue Origin's sixth crewed spaceflight sat down to describe the experience.
Blue Origin's New Shepard vehicle carried six passengers on a roughly 10-minute flight today that included several minutes in suborbital space. Even those brief few minutes were enough to change the passengers' lives forever.
"It was more than anything I can put words to. To be honest, I did not expect it to be so emotional," said mechanical and biomedical engineer Sara Sabry, the first person from Egypt to reach space. Sabry is also the founder of Deep Space Initiative (DSI), a nonprofit aiming to increase accessibility for space research.
"I couldn't stop crying. It was just uncontrollable," Sabry added. "It was just beautiful. And the thing, I think, the sensation that I felt the most out of all of this is that I think everyone on Earth needs to experience this. Every single person needs to see this, because everyone should be able to see this."
"All I can think of was, those were the most fun 12 minutes of my life, like truly," said Coby Cotton, one of the founders of the popular YouTube channel Dude Perfect. "To just be there seeing, like, Earth in that way just made me feel so small in a really cool way."
Cotton added that he intended on using the flight to film content for his YouTube channel, but forgot all about that once the capsule entered space.
"I had all these plans, with all the YouTube stuff, for doing some stunts at the top," Cotton said. "I brought these little mini ping pong paddles. Marty [Mário Ferreira] and I were gonna play ping pong, and Steve and I were gonna shoot a little mini hoop basketball shot, and they did not leave my pockets. I mean, all I wanted to do was look out and just float around. And I wouldn't trade it. It was unbelievable."
Forever changed. #NS22 pic.twitter.com/UWrtHLiHrHAugust 4, 2022
Entrepreneur and investor Ferreira, the first person from Portugal to reach space, said he was "very surprised" by the altitude the New Shepard capsule was able to reach. "I expected to see some curvature of the Earth and black, but it was black, much darker." Ferreira added that it was "an incredible experience, and it was worth it waiting 18 years for it, as I have been waiting."
Technology pioneer Clint Kelly III, who is credited with starting the development of today’s driverless cars, said the experience made him think back on the history of human exploration.
"I was struck by it like everyone else," Kelly said. "The transition from blue to purple to black. And when that occurred, I realized I was in a new place. So I was at the gateway to the new frontier. So that must have been equivalent to the sensation some of my ancestors felt in the 1700s when they stood on their own Kármán line, which was the Appalachian Mountains looking into the new frontier, which became the state of Kentucky."
Not all of the passengers were as verbose. "I asked you all to impress me, and you guys impressed me," said telecommunications executive Steve Young. "I had, obviously, a very emotional touch from it, and I'm gonna leave it at that."
For author and explorer Vanessa O'Brien, the experience made her reflect on how humankind is entering a new phase of exploration thanks to commercial space launch providers like Blue Origin. "If you wanted to go to space previously, you would have trained for this for decades; you would have maybe gone to the military or would have had to enter in a different way. But with the private space industry changing and disrupting the space industry, millions of people are going to be able to live and work in space, thanks to people like Blue Origin who are making that possible."
The flight of NS-22 also had symbolic meaning for several passengers aboard the New Shepard capsule. For Sabry, the brief spaceflight represented a historical moment for her nation. "I was thinking — like, I was stopping for a moment and really trying to look out the window and think that I'm bringing all of Egypt with me."
"I knew that a lot of Egyptians are watching in the moment, and I was thinking, OK, so now they are going to space … for the very first time in history," Sabry added.
For O'Brien, who carried the United Nations' Women Flag (opens in new tab) with her into space, the flight served as a symbol for advancing gender equality worldwide. "This UN Women flag represents women all over the world, regardless of nationality, race, religion, and that is for any woman who wants to take a step by step ferociously. And that's Blue Origin's motto. So UN Women also supports that and wants every woman to be in a better place. And I am very proud to have that flag with me today."