Buckle up for a bumpy landing! In its first-ever live telecast launch/landing on Sunday, the Blue Origin crew capsule had to make do with only two of its main descent parachutes in a planned attempt to determine how the New Shepard crew compartment would fare in a simulated emergency landing.
After a successful Sunday morning blastoff at 10:36 a.m. EST from the Blue Origin launch site in West Texas, the reusable rocket reached its target altitude of 331,501 feet and returned softly to Earth in an upright position following separation. Its six-passenger New Shepard crew capsule was given a tougher assignment, after scientists intentionally failed its third parachute to create a situation where an orchestrated hard landing would occur. With only two chutes deployed, the capsule hit the dirt at 23 mph, considerably faster than what commentators had anticipated, but appeared to remain intact amid a billowing dust cloud.
Have a look and tell us if the Russian play-by-play on this recap video doesn't give the launch and landing a distinctive old-school appeal ...
Technicians and scientists will now examine data and scrutinize the capsule over the next few weeks to look for any type of structural or internal damage that might occur during an actual manned excursion. This was the fourth successful flight of the Blue Origin booster rocket, and CEO Jeff Bezos has confirmed that uncrewed tests will continue thoughout the year, leading to test pilot missions starting in 2017 and the first round of potential paid customers zooming into suborbital space sometime in 2018.
What do you think of Blue Origin's space tourist rocket and how much would you pay for four precious minutes of weightlessness 62 miles above the Earth aboard New Shepard?