Former cryptocurrency company plans reality TV competition to pick next Blue Origin spaceflight crew

a white rocket launches into a blue sky
Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket lifts with the NS-21 crew from Launch Site One in West Texas on Saturday, June 4, 2022. (Image credit: Blue Origin)

A former cryptocurrency company plans to launch a reality television series that will follow its efforts to send people from underrepresented nations to space aboard a Blue Origin suborbital vehicle.

The Space Exploration and Research Agency (SERA), formerly called the Crypto Space Agency, plans to send people from India, Nigeria and a region known as the Small Island Developing States on a future Blue Origin flight, the U.S. company announced Monday (July 1). Spaceflight candidates will first be chosen through a public voting system, then the finalists will participate in a docuseries about the last step in the selection process, the company states on its website.

The announcement expands upon a report released in June saying the New Shepard vehicle will bring the first Nigerian to space, as well as SERA's own announcement in April saying the company had bought a six-seat Blue Origin flight for a yet-to-be disclosed date.

The Blue Origin flight is "marking a significant milestone for nations who have historically lacked access to space and paving the way for innovation and advancement within these regions," SERA representatives wrote in a statement.

Related: Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin could soon launch Nigeria's 1st-ever space tourist

SERA did not announce when Blue Origin would fly the flight, but it noted that the selectees for India, Nigeria and the small islands would be open for voting to the public in the future, with details to come. (The islands are a group of 39 states and 18 associate members of regional commissions of the United Nations, which are found in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans along with the Caribbean and South China Sea.)

SERA, when it was still called Crypto Space Agency, sponsored Brazilian Victor Correa Hespanha aboard the NS-21 suborbital mission on Blue Origin in 2022. The crypto company sold 5,555 non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to participants on April 25, 2022 and randomly selected Hespanha in a draw for the spaceflight, according to a past release.

NFTs, and cryptocurrencies more generally, have drawn warnings from the Securities and Exchange Commission about Ponzi schemes. Cryptocurrency communities have also been linked with anti-diversity and misogynic practices, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Since quietly changing names in 2024 and announcing its Blue Origin flight in April, SERA has not disclosed in press releases how it is currently funded. It's possible that the upcoming Blue Origin endeavor involves a reality television arrangement, however, as SERA says it already has plans in place for the Phase 2 docuseries.

"Candidates will form into crews, with one representative from each seat, to compete in series of challenges that will be streamed over several episodes," SERA representatives wrote

There have been attempts already to use reality television as a way to spur interest in spaceflight. The now-defunct Mars One organization proposed using documentary profits a decade ago in an unsuccessful effort to bring humans on a one-way mission to the Red Planet. Other reality show efforts concerning spaceflights have included "Space Hero" and "Who Wants To Be An Astronaut", among many others.

That said, SERA has partnered with several organizations in other countries to make the future Blue Origin flight happen, along with Blue Origin itself, the most recent press release emphasized. 

"For these seats, SERA has partnered with the National Space Research Development Agency (NASRDA) of Nigeria, and the Maldives Space Research Organization (MSRO). The remaining seat assignments for underrepresented countries will be revealed later this year," officials stated in the release.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: