NFL, TV Strahan flies into space with astronaut’s daughter | Science and discovery
By MARCIA DUNN – Writer AP Aerospace
Football star and TV celebrity Michael Strahan took a trip to space with Jeff Bezos’ rocket launch company on Saturday, sharing the trip with the daughter of America’s first astronaut.
Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket took off from West Texas, sending the capsule on a 10-minute flight with the two VIP guests and four paying customers. Their automated capsule climbed to an altitude of about 66 miles (106 kilometers), providing a few minutes of weightlessness before parachuting into the desert. The booster also returned to land successfully.
It was five minutes and 50 miles (187 kilometers) shorter than Alan Shepard’s Mercury flight from Cape Canaveral on May 5, 1961. His eldest daughter, Laura Shepard Churchley, took a small piece of his Freedom 7 capsule along with memories of her Moon Shot from Apollo 14. She also packed golf balls; his father struck a couple on the lunar surface.
Co-host of “Good Morning America” on ABC, Strahan has been bursting with excitement in the show’s updates all week. He took away his Super Bowl ring and retired the No.92 New York Giants jersey. Bezos hid a soccer ball on board that will go to the Professional Soccer Hall of Fame.
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“It was unreal,” Strahan said after stepping out of the capsule.
He said he wanted to go back – but Bezos joked that he should buy his own ticket next time.
Bezos, who flew into space in the same capsule, accompanied the six passengers to the launch pad near Van Horn and then greeted them. He had “Light That Candle” painted on the launch tower deck, borrowing Alan Shepard’s famous rebuke inside Freedom 7 as the delays increased: “Why don’t you solve your little problem and don’t you light that candle? “
This time, “Laura screamed, let’s light that candle,” Strahan said, mimicking her father’s growling voice. They had to wait two more days to fly because of the strong wind.
Shepard Churchley, who volunteered for Blue Origin’s third passenger flight, said she repeated her late father’s phrase every time they entered the capsule. She heads the board of directors of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation.
“I thought of dad coming down and thought, gosh, he couldn’t even enjoy everything I’m enjoying,” Shepard Churchley said after landing. “He was working. He had to do it himself. I went on my way for the ride!”
Bezos, who founded Amazon six years before Blue Origin, was in its first launch in July. The second, in October, featured actor William Shatner – Captain James Kirk from television’s original “Star Trek”. The daughter of the late Leonard Nimoy sent a necklace with a “Vulcan Salute” charm on this flight, in honor of the show’s original Mr. Spock.
Among the four space tourists paying unspecified millions each were the first father-son combo: financier Lane Bess and his son Cameron. Also in flight: Voyager Space CEO Dylan Taylor and investor Evan Dick.
Blue Origin dedicated Saturday’s launch to Glen de Vries, who launched into space with Shatner in October, but died a month later in a plane crash.
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