How it feels to go into space: ‘More beautiful and dazzling and frightening than I ever imagined’

11 months ago 134

It was a balmy greeting successful the westbound Texas godforsaken erstwhile Chris Boshuizen stepped into Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin rocket capsule for a travel astir of america volition ne'er experience.

He waved a speedy goodbye to the Amazon billionaire and took his spot adjacent to William Shatner arsenic the capsule doorway bolted shut.

For Boshuizen, this was a imagination a beingness successful the making, ever since his parents took the household to Parkes, a municipality successful his autochthonal Australia with longstanding links to astronomy. There, staring retired from the aforesaid scope that erstwhile transmitted images from the Apollo 11 Moon landing, a curiosity for the large chartless was born.

Chris Boshuizen connected  committee  Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin New Shepard rocket, 13 October, 2021.
Chris Boshuizen connected committee Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin New Shepard rocket, 13 October, 2021. Photograph: Blue Origin
Chris Boshuizen preparing to committee  Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin New Shepard rocket
Chris Boshuizen preparing to committee Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin New Shepard rocket Photograph: Felix Kunze/Blue Origin

Now, 37 years later, astir 14,000km from location and strapped to a rocket launcher, the erstwhile Nasa developer recovered himself seated adjacent to Shatner – who captivated the satellite successful his relation arsenic Captain James Kirk of Star Trek’s USS Enterprise. Also onboard were Audrey Powers, a Blue Origin executive, and Glen de Vries, main enforcement of the objective probe steadfast Medidata Solutions.

“I’m a abstraction dork,” Boshuizen tells the Guardian days aft his instrumentality to Earth. “I’ve ever wanted to beryllium an astronaut … The time I learned I was flying to space, I babbled similar a lad with a caller toy.”

After a beingness of dreaming and 20 years of work, the physicist and technologist past week saw his “boyhood imagination travel true”, becoming the 3rd Australian national to spell to space.

The roadworthy to liftoff

On 9 October, Boshuizen flew from his location successful San Francisco to Van Horn, a small, agrarian Texas municipality adjacent the Mexico border. For the adjacent 5 nights helium would unrecorded successful Bezos’ Astronaut Village, a state-of-the-art preflight residence.

Chris Boshuizen, left, with William Shatner and chap  astronauts
Chris Boshuizen, left, with William Shatner and chap astronauts. Photograph: Blue Origin

All 4 unit members underwent days of extended astronaut training, including formation simulations and zero-gravity workshops, that were designed to hole the squad for abstraction formation successful the lead-up to motorboat day.

From commencement to finish, each facet of the travel was rehearsed and honed, from meetings with engineers and power teams to flight-suit fittings and exigency process training.

Boshuizen was awake earlier the prima roseate connected 13 October – motorboat day. He admits “feeling a small nervous” but immoderate anxiousness was dulled by the excitement shared betwixt the 4 passengers.

“I had a small clip to contemplate my mortality and measure the risk,” helium says. “I’ve done each the owed diligence I can.”

At T-45 minutes the unit departed the Astronaut Training Center to marque the 10-minute travel to the motorboat pad site, chauffeured by Bezos. At astir 20 metres gangly and 4 metres wide, the New Shepard was a daunting show successful the sparse godforsaken valley.

Boshuizen ascended the operation and walked crossed the aerial span to the unit capsule. The astronauts loaded into the 15-cubic-metre unit capsule to beryllium strapped into their seats.

At T-25 min Boshuizen was the last rider to committee arsenic last-minute information checks prepared the squad for liftoff. With conscionable 15 minutes to launch, Bezos pulled the hatch closed arsenic “sit backmost and relax” sounded from ngo control.

“It’s similar a submarine doorway and you perceive this alloy bang and they fastener it down and you deliberation ‘I’m stuck here, I’m not getting out’,” Boshuizen recalled.

Finally, a 10-second countdown boomed and the rocket propelled from the ground.

“It felt nary worse than a steep airplane instrumentality off,” Boshuizen says, dispelling the thought that the sheer unit of the propulsion would rattle and shingle the capsule “like the movies”.

As the rocket approached the Kármán Line, the internationally recognised bound of abstraction astatine 100km supra mean oversea level, the capsule separated from the booster and officially sailed into space.

Shepard capsule launches with unit  onboard.
Shepard capsule launches with unit onboard. Photograph: Blue Origin/ZUMA Wire/REX/Shutterstock

“It lone takes 4 to 7 minutes to get to space,” Boshuizen says, adding: “It’s very, precise quick.”

Boshuizen took with him a 1.5kg cargo bag. Packed wrong was a Lego figurine of an astronaut.

At 100km supra mean oversea level, the minifigure – a puerility artifact and throwback to his lifelong fascination with abstraction – jiggled escaped and started to somersault done the cabin. Boshuizen unbuckled his spot arsenic he, too, somersaulted successful the air.

‘A chromatic being thrown into a river’

The 3 to 4 minutes spent without the propulsion of gravity were “so natural”, helium says. “There’s thing unusual astir it astatine all.”

The unit floated unneurotic to instrumentality a selfie, noses soon pressed against the windows to presumption the curve of earth.

“It truly got maine heavy successful the chest,” Boshuizen says. The acquisition was truthful moving the unit were sobbing.

“Seeing the borderline of the ambiance – a thin, superb sapphire shield astir the satellite – was an uncanny experience,” helium adds. “Closing my eyes now, I inactive consciousness that irresistible tug … pulling my bosom from my thorax and retired implicit the borderline of the world.”

Astronauts look   retired  of the windows and interval  wrong  the capsule
Astronauts look retired of the windows and interval wrong the capsule Photograph: Blue Origin/ZUMA Wire/REX/Shutterstock
Blue Origin New Shepard rocket blasts off.
Blue Origin New Shepard rocket blasts off. Photograph: Mike Blake/Reuters

“I’ve watched each movie, I’ve seen each astronaut speech astir abstraction and photos of the curvature of the Earth successful airy of the atmosphere, the blackness of space, and I realise erstwhile I got up determination those words are conscionable wholly inadequate successful describing what I saw.

“It was much beauteous and much dazzling and much frightening than I ever imagined.”

The descent backmost to Earth was arsenic speedy arsenic the ascent. As the capsule deed the atmosphere, Boshuizen says, helium felt similar a chromatic being thrown into a river, splashing astatine the aboveground and past floating mildly to the bottom.

Just implicit 10 minutes aft launching, the unit touched backmost to Earth successful a unreality of dust, astatine 9.59am CDT.

Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket blasts off
Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket blasts off Photograph: Joe Skipper/Reuters

First to conscionable them was Bezos, opening the hatch to the applause of waiting household and friends. Boshuizen was 3rd to disembark arsenic champagne bottles were popped and Bezos announced: “Welcome to a precise tiny club.”

Boshuizen present holds the sought-after rubric of being among less than 600 radical who person seen the Earth from space.

After achieving his puerility goal, Boshuizen has a caller aim: to marque getting to abstraction arsenic casual arsenic catching a bus.

“The thought of surviving and moving successful abstraction volition go a reality,” helium says. “The archetypal 60 years of abstraction exploration were the domain of governments – present abstraction has go the domain of mean citizens.

“In conscionable implicit fractional a century, humankind has wholly changed. Things that utilized to instrumentality an full state tin present beryllium done by you and me.”

Addressing critics, the astronaut is speedy to dispel assertions that trips similar these are thing much than abstraction tourism.

The capsule returns to earth
The capsule returns to Earth. Photograph: Blue Origin/ZUMA Wire/Rex/Shutterstock

“It’s absorbing seeing quality spaceflight commencement with a gag and radical deprecating it arsenic conscionable tourism due to the fact that they don’t recognize what’s coming next,” helium says.

“This is not tourism, it’s the opening of thing truly powerful. I deliberation we are conscionable astir the country of seeing what quality spaceflight tin truly mean for us

“Human abstraction exploration … [can] look weird and scary and unusual to radical who don’t understand, and that’s OK. My occupation is to clasp a dependable people and and not springiness up and support gathering things that I deliberation are invaluable for you for the planet.

“It’s the opening of thing truly large and I deliberation if you accelerated guardant 50 years we’re going to look backmost astatine 2021 arsenic the twelvemonth it each began. This is the abstraction contention mentation 2.0.”

Blue Origin’s New Shepard unit  capsule lands successful  Texas
Blue Origin’s New Shepard unit capsule lands successful Texas Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

It’s thing the task capitalist is peculiarly passionate about. “We indispensable spell to abstraction if we are to prevention this Earth … If we person much accusation astir our changing planet, we tin beryllium stewards of the planet. You can’t hole thing if you don’t cognize astir it.

“Space has ever been present, the stars radiance down connected america arsenic they did our ancestors … [it] begins a specified 60 miles supra america but for astir of quality past it has remained tantalisingly retired of reach. One time rather soon full generations volition look down connected the Earth arsenic the archetypal astronauts did and autumn successful emotion again with our large bluish planet, 1 by one.”