(NEXSTAR) – Six newly-minted astronauts returned to Earth after spending a few moments of weightlessness during a flight to space aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard on Saturday morning.
Michael Strahan, co-anchor for “Good Morning America,” and Laura Shepard Churchley, daughter of American astronaut Alan Shepard, were among the honorary guests of New Shepard’s 19th mission. The four other crew members were paying customers, according to Blue Origin.
Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos arrived at the site of the capsule shortly after its successful touchdown in West Texas.
“Welcome back, guys!” he said, greeting each crew member with a hug.
Strahan, the first out of the capsule, later remarked to Bezos that the mission was even better than he imagined.
“I wanna go back,” Strahan could be heard telling Bezos in a video shared by Blue Origin. “I wanna spend longer.”
Blue Sherpard’s 19th mission, and third manned flight, was originally scheduled to launch Thursday, but the decision was made Wednesday to delay the flight in light of dangerous winds.
“The team has completed Flight Readiness Review and confirmed the vehicle has met all mission requirements for launch,” Blue Origin wrote on Wednesday. “Astronauts will complete training today and weather remains as the only gating factor for launch.”
Bezos, meanwhile, had already flown to space on Blue Origin’s first manned mission in July alongside his brother Mark Bezos. Wally Funk, 82, and Oliver Daemen, 18, were also among the crew, becoming the oldest and youngest persons to fly to space at the time.
A second manned flight took place in October carrying William Shatner, 90, who subsequently became the oldest person to fly to space. He was joined by Audrey Powers, Blue Origin’s vice president of mission and flight operations, and two other crew members.
Blue Origin is planning for “many more” crewed flights in 2022, according to the company.
Starting in 2022, however, the FAA has said it will no longer be providing commercial astronaut wings to those who venture into space, due to their increasing numbers.
“The U.S. commercial human spaceflight industry has come a long way from conducting test flights to launching paying customers into space,” FAA Associate Administrator Wayne Monteith said in a news release issued Friday. “The Astronaut Wings program, created in 2004, served its original purpose to bring additional attention to this exciting endeavor. Now it’s time to offer recognition to a larger group of adventurers daring to go to space.”
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