'I want to go back!' Michael Strahan can't get enough of space after Blue Origin launch

Michael Strahan can't wait to go back to space. 

The former NFL football player and "Good Morning America" co-anchor launched into space on Blue Origin's suborbital New Shepard rocket Saturday morning (Dec. 11) and apparently enjoyed every second, judging from the smile on his face after landing.

"I want to go back," Strahan told Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos after exiting the New Shepard spacecraft at its landing site near the company's Launch Site One outside of Van Horn, Texas.

Strahan, 50, and five other passengers launched on Blue Origin's NS-19 mission aboard New Shepard Saturday, experienced a few minutes of weightlessness and breathtaking views of Earth from 65 miles up before descending back to Earth under their capsule's parachutes. 

"Touchdown has a new meaning now!!!" Strahan, a former NY Giants defensive end, wrote on Twitter after the flight. "Wow ... that was amazing!"

Video recap: Watch Blue Origin launch Michael Strahan to space

Good Morning America co-anchor and former NFL star Michael Strahan embraces Laura Shepard Churchley, daughter of astronaut Alan Shepard, as Dylan Taylor, Chairman & CEO of Voyager Space after they flew into space aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard on Dec. 11, 2021 near Van Horn, Texas.  (Image credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Joining Strahan on the flight were Laura Shepard Churchley, the eldest daughter of the late Alan Shepard, the first American to fly in space and the namesake of Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket. Four paying passengers rounded out the crew.

The live Blue Origin broadcast showed Strahan, a former NY Giants defensive end, giving an enthusiastic thumbs-up from the window while waiting for recovery crews, along with a large group of well-wishers and film crews, to approach the spacecraft in the desert near Van Horn. Strahan's enthusiasm continued even after emerging from the New Shepard capsule RSS First Step that carries Blue Origin passengers to space.

"It was surreal ... it was unbelievable. It's really hard to describe it," Strahan said in a video with this Twitter post. He also had enthusiastic comments for onlookers moments after landing.

More: Blue Origin's launch with GMA anchor Michael Strahan explained

"OK, here's the thing," Strahan told a small group of people assembled near the spacecraft after landing, including Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos.

"The Gs, it's not a facelift but a face drop," Strahan continued, speaking of the forces of gravity his crew experienced during launch and landing. "I know what I'm going to look like at 85," he concluded, joking.

Strahan said he urged his crewmates to come back and watch a Blue Origin launch from the ground, something he did earlier this year when the company launched its first crewed New Shepard flight carrying Jeff Bezos, his brother Mark among its crew. At the time, Strahan was reporting on the launch for Good Morning America. 

Saturday's launch marked Blue Origin's third crewed flight. The company launched "Star Trek" actor William Shatner and three others on New Shepard in October. 

But Saturday's flight marked Blue Origin's first to carry a full six-person crew (the two previous flights carried only four each), with the space tourists dubbing themselves "The Original Six." This moniker is a nod to "The Original Seven" group of Mercury 7 astronauts selected by NASA in 1959, who were the agency's first spaceflyers.

Among that NASA group was Alan Shepard, Churchley's father. She was about 14 when her father became the first American to fly into space in 1961.

"He didn't even get to enjoy it, like I did. He was working," Churchley, 74, said to landing site onlookers, during the Blue Origin broadcast. 

Good Morning America co-anchor and NFL star Michael Strahan receives his Blue Origin astronaut wings from founder Jeff Bezos after launching on the New Shepard NS-19 suborbital flight on Dec. 11, 2021 from the company's Launch Site One near Van Horn, Texas. (Image credit: Blue Origin)

"It was all business," Bezos, standing nearby, said to Churchley.

"He had to do it himself. I went along for the ride!" Churchley responded, to which Bezos joked, "He wasn't doing somersaults."

Churchley and Strahan were invited guests of Blue Origin on its third crewed flight, which reached a maximum altitude of roughly 65.8 miles (106 km) above ground level during the 10 minute, 13-second flight, according to company statistics. 

The crew had about three minutes of weightlessness at the top of the suborbital parabolic flight, during which they exclaimed about the view on the broadcast, before they descended underneath parachutes to the Texas desert.

The other four spaceflyers on mission NS-19, who were paying passengers, were:

  • 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 under the alias MeepsKitten.

Bezos personally drove some of the crew out to the launch pad in Rivian electric trucks and presented each with their Blue Origin astronaut wings. In a prelaunch video, Taylor said he expected the flight to be the experience of a lifetime. His crewmates, it seemed, agreed.

"I'm going to do it again," Lane Bess said as Bezos gave the entrepreneur and investor his wings. Bezos added that Bess would have to get back in line to book a flight.

Dick was the last to receive his wings and seemed overjoyed. In Blue Origin video, engineer-turned investor said he hard always hoped to work in aerospace when he was young, but never managed to do it.

"You made my dream come true," Dick told Bezos.

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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 Space.com 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: https://qoto.org/@howellspace