Jul 20, 2021
Blue Origin First Human Flight Mission Briefing Transcript July 20
The Blue Origin team held a press briefing on its first human flight that took place on June 20, 2021. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was joined by Mark Bezos, Wally Funk and Oliver Daemen on the flight. Read the transcript of the press conference here.
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Hello, everyone. We are live from West Texas at our Launch Site One. Thank you so much for joining us for today’s mission briefing for Blue Origin’s first human flight. We expect this briefing to run about 40 minutes. We’ll start by getting you up to speed on where we’re at with our preparations for the launch day, and then we’ll take your questions. Here with me today is our CEO, Bob Smith, Steve Lanius, our lead flight director for this mission, Audrey Powers, our vice president of New Shepard operations, Chris Yeager, who is the chief engineer for New Shepard, and Ariane Cornell, our director of astronaut sales. We have a lot to get through today, so let’s get started. Bob, over to you.
Bob Smith: (00:50)
Thank you, Linda. It’s thrilling to get to this day, and I’m so proud of Team Blue, everyone who contributed to this moment, past and present, in helping us get here to our first human flight. After 15 flights of New Shepard, we were ready to fly our first customer, Oliver Daemen, our founder, Jeff Bezos, his brother, Mark Bezos, and the incredible aviation pioneer Wally Funk. July 20th is a special date in space flight history, and at Blue Origin, we choose many of our dates and our names to honor those who came before us. What began with Alan Shepard and Freedom 7, and what was accomplished on that historic day 52 years ago when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped on the surface of the moon, was an inspiration to me personally, to an entire generation, and to the world.
Bob Smith: (01:42)
They made history by landing on the moon, and we are working hard each and every day to be good stewards of that legacy, to live up to those high standards and to go even further in our leg of this multi-generational journey to space. New Shepard is only the beginning, because Blue Origin is a company that is not only building space vehicles, but is building a company that builds space vehicles. Blue is tackling foundational building blocks, the technology, the people, the processes, and the infrastructure needed to truly lower the cost of access to space and enable a near-term future where people live and work in space for the benefit of Earth. We started as a research company that created a revolutionary and award-winning reusable launch vehicle. We stuck the landing, and we proved that we could do it again and again and again. We then had the confidence to start scaling the company, expand our focus to other developments, build a customer base, and turn our attention to completing a human rating certification for New Shepard and make it truly operationally.
Bob Smith: (02:51)
While the architecture of New Shepard has not changed, we had to know that it would operate safely in all off-nominal cases, ensure its parts pedigree was known and correct, complete stressing component testing that goes on far beyond operational conditions, and train, train, and train some more with our flight operations crews. In basic terms, it’s the difference between knowing that a system might function and establishing that a system is robust and safe. We now know it’s ready to go, and we can prove it. If you approach the company history through the lens of what we’ve all accomplished through New Shepard, then you start to see how New Shepard is the first step in creating more than a vehicle. We started with New Shepard as a vertical takeoff vertical landing vehicle, because it’s scalable.
Bob Smith: (03:40)
New Shepard technologies in landing gear, landing engines, guidance, and autonomy scale directly, and are in many ways more easily applied when we transfer them to New Glenn and to our lunar lander. If one simply looks at the mission profiles, one can easily see the heritage that comes from New Shepard. We also took the advanced course from the beginning, and created a highly-throttleable high-ISP hydrogen oxygen engine. The engine we fly on Tuesday on New Shepard has a direct descendant in the hydrogen oxygen engine we have on the upper stage of New Glenn. This first reusable engine allowed us to learn and learn some more, as we are today, about how to design, build, and test high-performance engines that can be used dozens of times. We also have learned in advance some of the greatest hits of rocket manufacturing, building common tank domes, using friction stir weld methods, creating our own high-temperature alloys, applying additive manufacturing methods, and doing all of it with the highest level of precision and quality.
Bob Smith: (04:48)
Those manufacturing capabilities, that supply chain, and that team will be applied to our newest engines, New Glenn, our lunar lander, and so much more. We also built our flight operations capability around New Shepard over the course of those 15 successful consecutive missions. Those flight operations procedures, computer systems, autonomy, training, and even the personnel are being incorporated exactly into our New Glenn mission control center. And finally, as stated before, we learned how to make a vehicle safe enough that we’d be willing to put our own loved ones on it and send them to space. Those capabilities too will be applied to all that we do, which returns us to why we are here for a mission briefing. This is the first operational and commercial flight of New Shepard. We followed a methodical step-by-step approach to get to this point in time. We’re ready, and we can’t wait for Tuesday. And now, I’d like to turn it over to our lead flight director, Steve Lanius. Steve?
Steve Lanius: (05:52)
Thank you, Bob. I’m Steve Lanius, and I’m honored to serve as flight director for this mission. I’ve been at Blue since 2004, and have been involved in every mission in Blue’s history. This is my ninth mission as lead flight director. Every mission we’ve conducted so far has been preparing us to have humans on board. During our last mission, we rehearsed putting customers on board a fully-fueled vehicle for the first time. Audrey here on my left actually strapped in for that mission, helping us to prepare for Tuesday. My number one responsibility as flight director is the safe execution of this mission and the safety of my launch crew, which includes our astronauts. New Shepard will not launch until I’m satisfied that it is safe to do so, and I give my go for launch. I’m proud to say that we’ve just successfully passed our flight readiness review, and are currently on track for launch at 8:00 in the morning Central Daylight Time on July 20th.
Steve Lanius: (06:52)
Our flight ratings review process examines all elements of the New Shepard system, focusing on changes since the mission readiness review, which we completed on July 8th, including closing out of action items and open planned work. We’ve looked at all the vehicle systems, including hardware, software, procedures, and launch crew readiness. We are not currently working any open issues, and New Shepard is ready to fly. We’ve evaluated the crew capsule systems, including GNC, avionics, pneumatics, separation and descents, escape, and cruise systems. On the booster, we’ve completed checks of all subsystems, such as avionics, pneumatics, hydraulic. Everything has been exercised in detail. The weather forecast currently shows a slight chance of rain and thunderstorms in the early morning hours on launch day, which clears in time for our launch window, with light winds and temperatures in the 70s. The upper-level wind forecast is favorable for launch. We will be confirming this with weather balloon releases tomorrow and on launch day. Weather is currently not a constraint to launch. We will continue to monitor weather conditions over the next two days for any unfavorable conditions. We are still working our nominal L-2 to L-0 day procedures to prepare for launch. We expect to be ready to launch on schedule. Astronaut training is currently underway, and will be completed tomorrow. Based on practice training with stand-in astronauts, we are fully confident that our astronauts will be ready to fly on Tuesday. Our training is comprehensive, and gets the crew prepped for everything they need to know about the vehicle. Our astronaut training program is fully compliant with FAA requirements for crew and space flight participants. It consists of 14 hours over a two-day span, and includes classroom instruction, demonstrations, and practice in a training capsule. The training covers nominal, off-nominal, and emergency procedures, including zero-G seat egress and ingress, emergency egress, and fire response and emergency breathing mask usage.
Steve Lanius: (09:09)
The training culminates in mission rehearsals covering five different scenarios in a final exam. I’ll get a report from our astronaut trainer, crew member seven, at the end of training tomorrow, confirming that astronauts are go for rollout and launch. Here’s what you can expect on launch day. Rollout at midnight, at approximately T minus 8 hours. Our propellant load begins at T minus 3 hours. We’ll give a go for astronaut load at T minus 45 minutes, and close the hatch on the crew capsule at T minus 24 minutes. Expected launch time currently still is 0800 Central Daylight Time, or 1300 Universal Coordinated Time. Of course, we have a very talented engineering team supporting the flight director and the mission. Chris will talk more about that in a few minutes. In summary, the launch crew is ready, the vehicle is ready, the crew is ready, and the flight director is ready. Audrey, over you.
Thank you, sir. I’m Audrey Powers. I’m proud to say I’ve been at Blue Origin for about eight years now, and I’ve supported every New Shepard mission that we’ve flown. I’m currently the lead of mission and flight operations for the New Shepard program. My responsibility is not just flight operations, but also the maintenance and inspection and testing that occurs between flights, as well as for the launch complex and the ground infrastructure that supports all of those activities. Probably most important, I’m here representing a tremendously talented group of professionals who work across all of those areas, and I’m so very privileged to be part of that team who’s dedicated so much effort to this program over the years. I was, as Steve said, a stand-in astronaut on our last mission. We exercise the entire astronaut training flow all the way up through load on launch day. Did not get to fly to space, unfortunately, but we practiced all of those tower load activities, ingress and egress on the tower.
We also practiced egress from the capsule in the field, post-landing. It was quite an overwhelming experience, even just to practice the non-flight parts. And in just two days, our lucky astronauts live that reality for the first time. So that rehearsal activity on the last mission was one very small part of Blue Origin’s larger human flight certification plan, so I wanted to go through that a little bit. It’s been an exceedingly comprehensive review of the life of the New Shepard program, and we’ve just recently completed it. To pass the certification plan, the program-
To pass the certification plan the program worked through a number of readiness gates over the last several years. One of them is our flight test program. Which many people have followed very closely that included multiple capsule escape flights, so that we could test the full envelope escape capability of the crew capsule, which is very important safety system for astronauts. We had external reviews for all aspects of both the crew capsule and the propulsion module. That was a group of external reviewers partnered with our internal blue origin team. And they participated in our very recent human flight certification review. Which was a very comprehensive and kind of the culmination review of the entire program. And we scrutinized ourselves and our performance against voluminous requirements with both those internal and external non-advocate reviewers. I think one important aspect of all this is that we’re not just flying people who are designated crew members.
We are also flying of course our first paying commercial customer. And the fact that we’re doing this on a private vehicle that is completely privately funded from a private launch site is just something that hasn’t been done in this industry before. So there were a lot of firsts that we had to work our way through with our external partners to get to this point and figure out how to do all those new things really well and safely. So the one important external partner to our progression here is the FAA of course the office of commercial space transportation. They have very much been our partner over the entire life of this program, but particularly over the past few years as we progressed through this human flight certification program. We’ve collaborated with them very closely for our licensing needs.
Of course giving them insight to all of these reviews and having many reviews customized just for their purposes. The FAA’s inspection personnel have supported all of our flight operations on New Shepard here in Texas. So really the whole commercial space team at FAA has been with us through every step of this program. Another one of our external partners, the town of Van Horn here in West Texas. We have a lot of visitors here in Van Horn. This west Texas town has been our home and our support structure for as long as we’ve had this program active. This is a very remote location out here in the West Texas desert. And we know there are a lot of folks very interested in seeing this flight and coming out and watching this historic mission.
I want to make sure folks know that there are no designated public viewing areas for our flights. There is very little infrastructure out here and not really any public facilities to handle crowds coming to watch the flight. Our partners at the Texas department of transportation are going to be closing a portion of the one state highway that runs adjacent to our launch site. And they will not be allowing spectators on that closed portion of the highway during the hours around the mission. So it is very hot in the Texas desert in July. There is again very little infrastructure out here. So really the best way to watch this flight is on our webcast. We have a whole team of people who work very, very hard to bring great coverage of all of our New Shepard flights.
So we really encourage folks to use that instead of trying to come out here into the middle of the desert to watch the flight. One final word, we’ve received a number of questions obviously over the past year and a half about how we’re handling this global pandemic that we’re all living through and how we have been able to safely conduct operations during that time which we’re glad to say we have been able to do. Our biggest concern obviously is the health and safety of all of our personnel who support New Shepard missions. We’ve been following closely all of the CDC guidelines as well as the state orders, state and local orders that apply to our team here.
The vast majority of people who are supporting our launch operations, both blue and contractor personnel, the large majority of them are vaccinated by this point. So that has been a real help for us to be able to scale back some of our very strict protocols. But of course for anyone who is onsite and has not yet been able to get vaccinated we’re still implementing all of those CDC guidelines to make sure that they can be safe while they support us here. I’m going to turn it over to Chris Jager our chief engineer.
Chris Jager: (17:13)
All right, thanks Audrey. So I am Chris Jager, I am the chief engineer of the program and I have been with Blue Origin since 2014. I as with most people here have been involved in every flight in the New Shepard program and I’m very honored and proud to be here with this team. So my day job I am accountable for the technical baseline of the program. And I know these vehicles inside and out. However, on operations this is a very complex novel system. So I get to work with 20 very talented engineers in the engineering backroom. These are the folks who make the actual subsystems work along with the rest of the engineering team and talent back in Kent. So on L zero day, on Tuesday, you’ll hear me as the call sign of engineering and I’ll be working with my team to support the flight director and the controllers in the front room, the capsule booster and ground controllers.
Chris Jager: (18:11)
We’ll be making sure that the vehicles are ready before all of the major vehicle gates, such as propellant load, engine chill, astronaut load, skip enable terminal account and launch. Any issues that come up we work to resolve them with the flight director. And we will be working to keep on or ahead of our timeline to make that 8 AM lift off time for the flight director. So before, Steve mentioned a lot of the work that went into making the vehicles safe and ready to fly. So I want to talk a little bit more about how we do that today. The preparation for one of our vehicles to go into the next flight happens just hours after landing. We start with a thorough postlight data review with all of the subsystem experts. Up here are some of the notable external things that you can see.
Chris Jager: (19:04)
Most of them are in the actuated system and each subsystem we’ll take a look at their data review, the extra engineers at Kent will go through there, we’ll do all of the post flight actual inspections, and we’ll roll that all in. And we’ll give that to Audrey’s team and the very talented folks in operations maintenance. And we will incorporate that with any planned maintenance and work, we’ll execute all of that work. And then we will come back to re-verifying every one of those subsystems. The subsystem owners go over all the work that has been performed, close it out. When all the subsystems are complete, we get to the actual element, the booster and the crew capsule. At the end of that each vehicle these vehicles have been through what we call an open loop test, where they fly nominal and off nominal vehicle profiles.
Chris Jager: (19:56)
That data is then collected the same group of folks then reviews all of that. We get the end to end checkout of the vehicle. When they have approved that data review, we give the authorization to go meet those vehicles. The booster and the capsule get mated and then we do another verification of now the integrated launch vehicle. So we’ll go through and we’ll verify the mechanical and electrical mates of the two vehicles, as well as another functional end-to-end test. For this mission we have mated those vehicles a little bit earlier than we normally would. So we’re actually doing this test twice. We finished the final verification this morning as Steve said, and we have verified all the communication paths, we’ve finished the final software verification and the integrated launch vehicle checkouts. As Steve said, we were watching no open issues and the vehicles are ready to fly.
Chris Jager: (20:52)
So between now and the actual flight and we’re going to continue the nominal planned work this afternoon, the crew capsule actually should be about finished at this point. The batteries on both vehicles will be charged and topped off. Then we’ll be working on the high pressure gas systems being pre pressurized inside of the CC. And we’ll be monitoring the progress of that over the next couple of days. With the vehicles ready and soon to be completely closed out and ready for rollout on Tuesday, my focus will shift over to my crew and those engineering backroom folks. We’re going to make sure that everyone is ready and get some rest and some time off in the desert here. And looking forward to Tuesday. This afternoon I will do my final walk down to the launch complex and the vehicles, and I will then be ready. So as Steve said, no engineering or technical issues. Looking forward to a great L zero day, and we’ll keep monitoring weather and the nominal work going forward on both vehicles. Ariane?
Ariane Cornell: (21:59)
Thank you, Chris. Good morning everybody. My name is Ariane Cornell. I’m director of astronauts sales here at Blue Origin. I’ve been here for seven years. And let me say again, we are all very, very excited for Tuesday. Now from a sales perspective, we are particularly excited because we will again be flying our first paying customer on New Shepard. That really is a big deal. Now, as Steve mentioned, our astronauts have started their training already I understand that is progressing well. I can tell you from having gone through that astronaut training recently, it’s a wonderful program. And in particular I say so because by the end of the program, not only did I feel confident in my own ability to go up as an astronaut on New Shepard, but felt extraordinary confidence in the team here at Blue Origin that’s going to be operating this vehicle. As well as this beautiful piece of engineering that our team has pulled together in New Shepherd.
Ariane Cornell: (23:05)
Now, the training itself just to get into some more of the specifics as Steve mentioned, we’re going to go through ingress egress. How do you maneuver in the capsule when you’re up there over the Karman line, over the internationally recognized line of space? As you’re gazing out of those windows, you see in the clip here that is that spectacular view that our four astronauts are going to experience on Tuesday. And again, you walk away knowing exactly what you need to know. But again, this vehicle has been… It’s an autonomous vehicle, it’s been designed so that the customers, the astronauts themselves can experience the flight and you leave the rest of the rocket and the rest to the team to operate again so you can experience that flight of a lifetime over the Karman line. Now, how does the rocket get up there? Why don’t we go quickly through the flight profile. Now, the rocket and the capsule-
Ariane Cornell: (24:03)
… File. Now, the rocket and the capsule made it on top of it, lift off at about 75 kilometers or a 250,000 feet, or so. The two crafts separate, they continue their ascent, both over a hundred kilometers. The capsule and the astronauts inside, you’ll get to experience about a three to four minutes of weightlessness, again, to gaze out of those big, beautiful windows. Maybe do a couple of somersaults. I get the impression that Wally Funk in particular is pretty jazzed to be able to do some of those up there in zero G. But then, we will ask them to get back in their seats buckle back in. They will descend under three large parachutes. And then just in the last moments, the retro thrust system comes on and provides a nice air cushion for the capsule.
Ariane Cornell: (24:54)
I will note, to those of you that may or may not have seen our previous launches, that it does kick up a lot of dust down here in the west Texas desert. It’s very much… It literally is like a like talcum powder. So, sends up a lot of dust, but really by the time the capsule lands, it’s just at about one or two miles an hour. So again, a very nice flight that we have in store for our astronauts on Tuesday.
Ariane Cornell: (25:17)
Now talking about the broader set of astronauts, obviously we’ve got Oliver Damon as our first paying customer. But what I will say is that since the auction that we held on June 12th, I have had the pleasure of chatting with many of our future customers that have already signed up for the subsequent flights. We intend to have two more flights this year in 2021, for a total of three flights, and many more to come in the future. So, we have already built a robust pipeline of customers that are interested. I will say to those of you out there that are interested in flying with us, please send us an email and email@example.com. And we will certainly get back to you and make sure that we can get you on one of our next flights.
Ariane Cornell: (26:09)
So, those are our astronaut flights. I will say that we are going to continue our payload flights as well. We do have two vehicles in operation. The one that will be flying on Tuesday will be dedicated to flying astronauts. And we’ve got a second rocket in the barn, as we like to say. That one will continue to be dedicated to payload missions. Now, we have had nine payload missions so far. Many of our customers have included NASA, other international space agencies, universities from around the world, as well as school kids from around the world have been able to fly their payloads on board. One of the wonderful things about the New Shepard platform is we are really opening access to space, both for astronaut fliers, and for those that want to fly their payload, their science, their technology on board. And that both of those missions, astronauts and payloads will continue in the future.
Ariane Cornell: (27:06)
I will just flag one, which is that we are looking forward to flying and working with NASA on their suborbital crew program, and certainly one day getting astronauts up there to fly with their engineering itself. So, that should be another wonderful step in the evolution of the New Shepard offerings. So again, a lot to come beyond Tuesday’s flight, but for Tuesday, what a moment for Blue Origin, what a moment for our customers. And with that, Linda, I will turn it back to you. Thank you.
Thank you, Ariane. And thanks everyone. As you can tell, we’re excited and we’re a go for launch for Tuesday. And thank you to many of you for spending your Sunday morning with us. We appreciate your time and attention. And now we’ll turn it over to some questions. Now to ask a question, just use the raise hand feature on the zoom link. We will call on you individually, and we just ask that you identify yourselves, your outlet, and the question that you have. So, we’ll turn it over to questions now. Our first question is from Morgan Brennan of CNBC. Morgan, over to you.
Morgan Brennan: (28:14)
All right. Good morning. Congratulations. Good luck. And thank you so much to, to all of you for holding this briefing this morning. My question is, I guess it’s a twofer for Bob. Bob, given the fact that you just have gone through this auction process, and you do have that first paying passenger on Tuesday’s mission, how large do you now assess that total addressable market for suborbital space tourism to be? And in light of that, what does the insurance piece of the puzzle actually look like, both in terms of coverage for the spacecraft, but also for passengers that do climb on board, be it Tuesday or these future flights?
Bob Smith: (28:52)
Thanks, Morgan. Good to talk to you. So, relative to the address [crosstalk 00:28:56] of market, we think that we had 7,500 people in the auction from over 150 countries. Clearly, there’s really high interest. So, the question really gets down to, what’s the price point that we talk about? How far down that when will we actually be able to get to, to the number of people that are willing to pay? Willingness to pay continues to be quite high. Our early flights are going for a very good price. You saw the interest during the auction was quite high. We had people well into the twenties, all very interested. Some of that was skewed obviously by the auction. And I think that’s an important note to make, which is that all went to charity. $28 million, that we are able to donate to those charities, as well as then give 19 charities in addition to that, put some more money into their pockets as well. So, I think we’re seeing very strong interest on that.
Bob Smith: (29:52)
I would say from an insurance standpoint, we do carry third-party liability insurance to make sure that if there’s any incident that we can actually cover that. And that’s part of our overall FAA license.
Great. Next question.
Okay. Our next question is from Marsha Dunn of the Associated Press. Marsha.
Marsha Dunn: (30:13)
Hi. Yes, hi. I hope you can hear me. I’ve been at the airport coming your way.
Thank you for traveling.
Marsha Dunn: (30:18)
Is how may times…? Can you hear me?
Yes, we can.
Marsha Dunn: (30:22)
How many times has this particular rocket and capsule flown already? And assuming everything goes well, when might the second crew flight occur? Thank you.
Ariane Cornell: (30:33)
Bob. Do you want to take that one?
Bob Smith: (30:36)
Sure. So, this particular stack, as we like to call it, that means the propulsion module as well as the crew capsule has flown twice now. Part of our certification plan, and what we actually committed to many years ago, was that we would fly what we called two stable configuration flights. And what we meant by that was, that we would go fly the exact same configuration twice and make sure if those flights went very, very well, then we’d be ready to go fly people on board. And that’s where we are today. So, I think we have that capability in place to make sure that this is reusable and reliable. And then we hope to have a flight at end of September, 1st of October for our next flight.
All right, Travis with Marfa Public Radio. Travis, over to you.
Hi, thanks so much. So, I’m in west Texas and I guess, my big thing I’m thinking about is, what does this moment of these future flights mean for the region? So, obviously the company pays taxes on the land in Culberson county but, I mean, with these multimillion dollar ticket sales, is any of that money going to trickle back down into the local economy directly in the form of taxes? Are you paying local taxes on that stuff? Or what are your broader plans for making sure that, again, this millions and millions of dollars coming into this company are getting down to the local community in some way?
Well, it’s the Audrey mentioned, Van Horn is our home. So, Audrey, do you want to talk a little bit more about that?
Sure. I can speak to a few things. We do have further development plans here at our launch site. We obviously use the local infrastructure in the form of power and utilities, and partner with a lot of those local organizations as we continue to expand here. I think you’ll probably see in some of our coverage, there is always a lot of construction going on, on site. This is not just a site for New Shepard. Our engine programs have test facilities here. Our lunar lander program has a test facility here, so this really is a multi-use facility and we’re expanding capabilities here all the time.
I do think as we bring more employees to the region, we are certainly… Our housing needs are growing. We’ve had some construction activities go on in the local town of Van Horn for purposes like that. So, I do think a lot of what we do brings jobs to the area across a number of fronts, not just in our employee base, but also in the partners in the local region that support us. We have a lot of contractor personnel directly from the region that support our activities out here too.
Great. Thank you, Audrey. Next question is from Allen Boyle of GeekWire. Alan, what’s your question?
Allen Boyle: (33:37)
Hi, thank you. I’m also in an airport, so I hope this works. Ariane mentioned that Wally Funk was jazzed to be in zero G. I wonder if you can tell us more about what the to be space fliers are doing. I know that they’ve got some free time there, and there’s supposed to be an astronaut complex that they’re staying in. Tell us a little bit about what the lifestyle of these people is like, and what they’re looking forward to. Anything you can pass along. Thank you.
Ariane has spent quite a bit of time with our astronauts while they’ve been here onsite. Ariane, do you want to take that?
Ariane Cornell: (34:14)
Sure, absolutely. Well, I can speak from a couple of different angles. One from having, again, gone through the astronaut experience, both the hospitality component and the actual flight, or the training experience. Not quite the flight, although hopefully one day. So, we do have our astronaut village, which is not far from the launch site, where we have a wonderful hospitality team that is taking care of them and their guests that they have brought down here to West Texas. And so, they all got to meet each other yesterday over… Let’s say over the last 48 hours or so.
Ariane Cornell: (34:51)
But today in earnest, as mentioned, starts the training itself. And it’s two days, which is… But it’s two full days. It’s very concise training. It leaves you with, again, everything that you need to know for your flight itself. So again, they’re going to be going through this training with our crew member seven. We’ve brought up this role in the past in webcast. So, the crew member seven is actually a two-person role. It comes from New Shepard. There are six seats on the capsule, and we have a crew member seven, which is the person that trains them. And then the other part of the role is the person that will be on [capcom 00:35:33]. So, those two roles are filled by Kevin Sproge and Sarah Knights. So, between meeting the crew, as you’ve seen the photos, in addition to meeting and working closely now with their crew member sevens, the team is getting ready. So, there’s the classroom component. They will also be working in a simulator that we have in our astronaut training center. And then they’ll also be going out to the pad. We want to make sure that our astronauts feel…
Ariane Cornell: (36:03)
– also be going out to the pad. We want to make sure that our astronauts feel acclimated not only with the capsule itself, but with the facilities here at our Launch Site One, as well as with the broader team; that is all part of the experience. So again, an incredible life-changing experience frankly that I had just having gone through the training experience, and then of course on Tuesday, we’re going to add on that spectacular flight to space and back for our four astronauts. So that is the full program. And then of course, last but not least, we’ll certainly have a great celebration on Tuesday upon their return.
Thanks, Ariane. Our next question is from Ken Chang of the New York Times. Ken, over to you.
Ken Chang: (36:48)
Great. Thank you. I was wondering if you could give us more details about how Oliver was chosen to be on this flight. It sounds like you have been selling tickets to some of the people who’ve bid. Can you give us an idea of what the very good price is? How many tickets have sold? Did he have to pay an extra price to get an upgrade to the first flight? And the background of how he was chosen of the people who had booked a flight on the upcoming flights. Thank you.
So Ariane is head of our astronaut sales and Ariane, back over to you.
Ariane Cornell: (37:21)
Sure, I would be happy to take that one. So, yes, so as mentioned with our auction winner, that won at a bid of 28 million, of course, as Bob mentioned with those funds going to our Club for the Future and now on to 19 other non-profits that can benefit from that auction, that auction winner did have some scheduling issues. And so as mentioned before and during the auction process, we had mentioned that we were going to start selling tickets in particular, starting with those that were the most competitive and active bidders. And so, yes, so Oliver was a part of that auction process and we had had him already lined up pretty quickly after the auction itself for the second flight. And when we had the scheduling challenge, we went to Oliver and saw if he was available and decided to move him up.
Ariane Cornell: (38:20)
And what a brilliant story though that it provides for us on Tuesday to be able to fly Wally Funk, who will become the oldest person to have ever flown to space at the age of 82 and Oliver, the youngest person that will have ever flown to space at the age of 18. So a wonderful crew that we have lined up on Tuesday between Oliver, Wally, and the Bezos brothers. So yes, very much looking forward to that.
Thanks Ariane. Next question is from Jeff Foust with SpaceNews. Jeff, over to you.
Jeff Foust: (38:59)
Hi Jeff Foust with SpaceNews. You talked about a step-by-step development process for New Shepard. Still seems like you’re taking at least a pretty sizable leap to go from flying without any people on board to flying with four people, including a commercial customer, on this very first crewed flight. I wonder if you could talk about what gives you the confidence to make this transition, this sharp transition, rather than say, doing a flight with one or two company employees onboard to test the vehicle out before you start flying people like Oliver, and for that matter, people like Jeff Bezos.
Bob, do you want to take that one?
Bob Smith: (39:41)
But then I’ll give it over to our good flight director who can spend a good amount of time on that. I would say, first and foremost, our plan has always been to go do that, those two consecutive back-to-back flights by which we would go demonstrate what we called stable configuration. By doing so, we’ve exercised not only the design, but also the manufacturing and all the operations. And when we had clean flights from both of those, we said, “We’re ready to go. We can go fly astronauts and do that safely.” We didn’t see any value, quite honestly, from doing things step-wise in that approach seeing that this is an autonomous vehicle, there’s nearly nothing for a crew member to go do, other than what we have on this particular flight, where we’re having a few evaluations of capabilities of what we’re seeing in flight. And that’s what some of our astronauts will be doing today on that flight. But Steve, I didn’t know if you wanted to add anything more to that.
Steve Lanius: (40:39)
Yeah. Thanks Bob. I do want to say, one thing in my view, there’s really no difference in how we operate the vehicle or the systems, whether they’re employees or commercial customers, they’re still human beings, and so we’re ready for that, whether they be employees or paying customers. No difference as far as the way we operate the vehicle.
Great. Our next question is from Emre Kelly with Florida Today. Emre, over to you.
Emre, go ahead and ask your question. Oh, we might be having audio issues with Emre.
All right. We’re going to move to the next question. Emre, if we can hear you back on again, we’ll try you again. But next question is from Jackie Wattles of CNN. Jackie, over to you.
Jackie Wattles: (41:33)
Hey everyone. Thanks so much for doing this. I’m currently in an Airbnb with questionable wifi, so that’s why you can’t see me right now.
Emre Kelly: (41:39)
Folks, good morning. Thanks for doing this. Bob, you had mentioned…
Emre Kelly: (41:48)
Can you hear me okay?
Yeah. Sorry. We had gone to Jackie, but Jackie, why don’t you hold that thought and we’ll go to Emre Kelly next.
Emre Kelly: (41:55)
How about now?
So Emre, over you. Emre, go ahead and ask your question, then Jackie will be next. Go ahead, Emre.
Emre Kelly: (42:02)
What’s your question?
Oh, we still might be having… Emre, are you able to hear us okay?
All right. Well, we’ll follow back up with Emre. Jackie, back over to you from your Airbnb.
Jackie, can you hear us? All right, well we might be having some audio issues and I apologize. It looks like we are at the top of our time. I see lots of hands raised, but we have a fearless media relations team on standby to answer your questions. Feel free to continue to send us questions at mediaatblueorigin.com, we’d be happy to answer them. On a programming note, before we close out, the live launch broadcast is set for Tuesday at T-minus 90 minutes, or roughly about 6:30 AM, that’s Central Time, and we are targeting launch for 8:00 AM Central Time. Please follow at @blueorigin on Twitter and follow our website at blueorigin.com for mission updates. Thank you so much for all your questions. Sorry for the technical difficulties at the end. And we look forward to seeing you all virtually or on person on Tuesday. Thanks so much for joining us. And we’re excited for our first human flight of New Shepard.