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The Margin: Blue Origin’s fourth crewed space flight launches — without Pete Davidson

The only stars seen on this Blue Origin launch were outside of the space capsule. 

The fourth crewed flight from the Jeff Bezos-owned space tourism company blasted off to the edge of space on Thursday. And while Blue Origin’s previous crewed trips to suborbital space boasted celebrities such as “Star Trek” star William Shatner and NFL star Michael Strahan — not to mention Amazon
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founder Bezos, himself — aboard the New Shepard space capsule, none of the six passengers on this most recent trip were necessarily household names. 

“Saturday Night Live” star Pete Davidson was supposed to be part of the crew, but after a launch delay rescheduled the March 23 flight to March 29 — and then inclement weather nudged liftoff until March 31 — a schedule conflict forced the funnyman to postpone his trip to space.

Blue Origin employee Gary Lai, who was a chief architect of the New Shepard program, took Davidson’s place on the company’s 20th mission to space.  He was joined by turnaround CEO and angel investor Marty Allen; Sharon Hagel, who founded the SpaceKids Global nonprofit, and her husband Marc Hagel, CEO of Tricor International; teacher and entrepreneur Jim Kitchen; and Dr. George Nield, the president of Commercial Space Technologies, LLC. 

The New Shepard lifted off just before 10 a.m. ET on Thursday from the company’s West Texas launch site for a roughly 10-minute trip that went just above 62 miles above sea level before returning to Earth. The capsule passed the Kármán Line, which international aeronautic and astronautical organizations in Europe consider the boundary of space. NASA, the U.S. Air Force and the Federal Aviation Administration all say that going above 50 miles counts as kissing outer space, however.

Blue Origin is offering spots for future short-term space flights, but it hasn’t shared publicly what a ticket aboard the Blue Shepard costs. An anonymous bidder did shell out $28 million to land a seat aboard the New Shepard’s first crewed launch with Bezos last summer, although they were unable to attend the history-making flight due to a scheduling conflict. And “Apollo 13” star Tom Hanks has poked fun at the cost of a Blue Origin ticket, telling Jimmy Kimmel last fall that Bezos asked him to go to space before Shatner, but “it costs like 28 million bucks or something,” so he declined. 

“I’m doing good, Jimmy,” Hanks added. “But I ain’t paying [28 million] bucks.” 

Whatever the cost, it’s likely astronomical. Rival Virgin Galactic is charging $450,000 for a spot aboard its SpaceShipTwo. And three SpaceX passengers flying to the International Space Station are paying $55 million apiece for their seats.

One report estimates that the global suborbital transportation and space tourism market will reach $2.58 billion in 2031.

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