Blue Origin Announces Replacement of Pete Davidson on Next Space Tourism Mission
By Jackie Wattles, CNN Business
Jeff Bezos’ space company Blue Origin says it will replace Saturday Night Live star Pete Davidson with longtime employee on the company’s next supersonic jaunt to the far reaches of space.
The company announced on Monday that it would replace Davidson with its chief architect of its suborbital rocket, Gary Lai.
Davidson, who became a entertainment plot mainstay amid his relationship with Kim Kardashian and feud with Kanye West, he was scheduled to fly as a guest alongside five paying customers aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket. But when Blue Origin announced last week that it was to delay that flight – from March 23 to March 29 – for additional ground tests on the rocket, the company also announced that Davidson could no longer join the mission.
Lai, who has been with Blue Origin for 18 years and holds several patents related to the New Shepard rocket design, will fly alongside five previously announced paying customers. Among them, Marty Allen, an investor and the former CEO of a party supply store; Jim Kitchen, entrepreneur and business teacher; George Nield, a former associate director for the Office of Commercial Space Transportation of the Federal Aviation Administration; Marc Hagle, a Orlando real estate developer and his wife, Sharon Hagle, who founded a space-focused nonprofit.
After years of quiet development, Blue Origin’s space tourism rocket made its crewed debut last year with Bezos, flying alongside space community hero Wally Funk and her brother Mark Bezos. and a paying customer.
Blue Origin’s goal is to make these suborbital spaceflights a mainstay of pop culture, offering a 10-minute supersonic ride to guests – who until now have been mostly celebrities – and anyone else who has the means.
The crew change with Lai and Davidson is not the first. Last year, the company held an auction for a ticket to fly alongside Bezos, and the as-yet-unknown winner of that auction agreed to pay $28 million for the seat. But then the winner pulled out, choosing to fly for a later mission, and an auction runner-up, a Dutch investorpassed the ticket to his 18-year-old son, Olivier Daemen.
Prior to this month’s flight, Blue Origin passengers will spend a few days training at Blue Origin’s facilities in West Texas before the day of the flight, when they board the crew capsule. New Shepard who sits atop the rocket. After liftoff, the rocket will exceed the speed of sound and, near the top of its flight path, will detach from the capsule. As the rocket booster returns to Earth for a vertical landing, the crewed capsule will continue to climb higher into the atmosphere more than 60 miles above the surface where the blackness of space is visible and the Capsule windows will provide unobstructed views of Earth.
As the flight reaches its climax, passengers will experience a few minutes of weightlessness. Bezos notably spent his time in weightlessness bowling and turning around in the cabin. Others have been glued to the window.
As gravity begins to pull the capsule back to the ground, passengers will once again experience intense G-forces before sets of parachutes are deployed to slow the vehicle. It will then land at less than 20 miles per hour in the Texas desert.
Because the flights are suborbital – meaning they don’t generate enough speed or take the right trajectory to avoid being immediately dragged down by Earth’s gravity – the entire journey will only last about 10 minutes.
Correction: This article has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of Gary Lai’s name.
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