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.
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
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.
TOUCHDOWN has a new meaning now!!! WOW…. that was amazing!!! 🚀🚀 @blueorigin @SMAC pic.twitter.com/xz54JT49f3December 11, 2021
"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.
"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.