William Shatner must be thanking his lucky stars he wasn’t aboard New Shepard today. On Monday, the rocket owned by Amazon chief Jeff Bezos’ space exploration company Blue Origin failed mid-flight, crashing into the Texas desert. According to reports, the rocket’s booster engines flared unexpectedly shortly after take-off, with the malfunction forcing the unfortunately-shaped Blue Origin rocket to abort its cargo capsule to safety before hitting the ground. Thankfully, there were no passengers on board and no one was harmed, however, it will no doubt have future space voyagers on high alert.
Booster failure on today’s uncrewed flight. Escape system performed as designed. pic.twitter.com/xFDsUMONTh
— Blue Origin (@blueorigin) September 12, 2022
Reports from The Guardian indicate that the aircraft lifted off from its West Texas launch site on Monday, on a mission to send NASA-funded experiments and additional cargo to the edge of space. While only a basic exercise designed to see the cargo spend a few minutes in microgravity, the flight, which marked the 23rd New Shepard mission, didn’t last long. Around a minute after takeoff, the New Shepard suffered a malfunction with its booster engines, triggering the capsule abort motor system, which propelled the craft away from the rocket before parachuting safely back to land.
Most interestingly of all, the entire ordeal was caught on camera, with Blue Origin posting a video of the malfunction to Twitter. In the clip, the launch commentary can be heard going immediately silent as things suddenly start to go wrong, a sentiment that was backed up by a statement in the aftermath. “It appears we’ve experienced an anomaly with today’s flight. This wasn’t planned,” the commentary said. The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said the booster crashed within a designated hazard area, with Blue Origin confirming that a company-wide investigation was now ongoing.
“Booster failure on today’s uncrewed flight. Escape system performed as designed,” Blue Origin tweeted. “The booster impacted the ground. There are no reported injuries, all personnel have been accounted for.”
According to ABC, the mission, called NS-23, was the first New Shepard launch without people aboard in over a year, and the fourth mission in 2022. Importantly, the rocket-capsule system has propelled 31 people into suborbital space over the past few years, including Star Trek actor William Shatner and Amazon head Jeff Bezos, who founded the space exploration enterprise way back in 2000. A key pillar of the billionaire and former world’s richest man‘s plans to generate mass space tourism, Blue Origin is already taking bookings for flights to the edge of space, where paying customers can experience a few minutes of microgravity.
The New Shepard aircraft that crashed on Monday had previously flown eight times, however, there it is not known if those missions were manned or unmanned. Considering the latest result, Bezos’ mission to make space travel attainable might be a little further out of reach than he may have initially thought, but that’s not likely to stop him.