Watch Blue Origin Give a Mannequin a Ride Into Space
This past week, they completed a successful test flight of their New Shepard rocket, launching it into space and then bringing it back home to Earth's surface all within the span of about 11 minutes. The test launch was mostly significant because the rocket managed to transport a capsule in one piece, named the Crew Capsule 2.0 because it's (eventually) supposed to be filled with people when it blasts off.
But for now, the only passenger onboard was an intrepid mannequin going by the name of "Mannequin Skywalker," because there aren't enough Star Wars puns out there in space. Shortly after the flight, Blue Origin uploaded footage of Skywalker's entire journey, including several minutes of zero gravity.
The full video can be seen below, and if you ever wanted to vicariously travel into space, Mannequin Skywalker presents a good opportunity for that:
The company's ultimate goal is to become part of the space tourism industry, which most science fiction from the last century assumed we'd have going by now. Blue Origin isn't planning to actually send tourists into space until 2019, but the fact that Mannequin Skywalker returned safely is a great sign. Had it returned in multiple pieces, that 2019 window probably wouldn't be doable anymore.
The enormous windows on the capsule are a reflection of Blue Origin's rather unique goal. Unlike SpaceX, which wants to send astronauts to Mars for a possible colony, or Boeing, which is mostly content helping NASA on their rockets, Blue Origin is interested in sending civilians to the edge of our atmosphere, to spend a few minutes in zero-gravity as they look down at the blue planet. Presumably very wealthy civilians, until the novelty wears off and prices drop.
If you're curious what the rocket looks like from the outside, here's some footage of the New Shepard as it took off in West Texas:
Unfortunately, since the mannequin is strapped down pretty firmly, we don't get to see what that weightlessness would look like, although Bezos promised that humans would have more freedom to float around during the trip. Which is good, since being tied down the whole flight with a poor view of the window doesn't seem like it'd be worth the trip.
Details on when exactly Blue Origin will start sending humans into space are vague beyond their 2019 goal for full-out space tourism. Now that they know a dummy can survive the trip, the next step is more test launches with human pilots.
After the pilots hopefully return in good health, the tourism part is bound to begin shortly after that.
Full video of Mannequin Skywalker's ride to space. Unlike him, you'll be able to get out of your seat during the zero gee part of the flight. And ignore the pinging sound – it's just from one of the experiments on this flight. #NewShepard @blueorigin https://t.co/dJ5VEeaWb6 pic.twitter.com/qGQC1vfW7D— Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) December 15, 2017