Rockets are finicky. Sometimes, when you'd like them to remain in one piece, they rapidly disassemble. When you're fully expecting them to crash and burn in a glorious fireball, they're stubborn enough to land safely back on Earth. Surprise! You can watch the latter outcome for yourself in this new highlight reel of yesterday's big rocket test from Blue Origin, the spaceflight company founded by Amazon's Jeff Bezos.
The test, which took place in West Texas, was designed to see if Blue Origin's crew capsule (empty this time) could separate from its New Shepard rocket booster in the middle of a launch, and land safely back on the ground.
Forty-five seconds into flight, mission control simulated a problem with the booster, signaling the crew capsule to detach, fire its own motor, and get the hell outta there as fast as possible. This was expected to throw the booster off enough to cause it to lose course, but this majestically phallic piece of machinery said 'nope, I'm gonna correct course and stabilize well enough to land back on Texan soil in one smoldering, upright piece.'
The full live feed was one hour long, complete with a lot of holding sequences while control checked and rechecked systems, considering whether to proceed or scrub for the day. It's worth skipping to the end to hear Blue Origin Flight Scientist Philip Hahn come very close to tears over seeing New Shepard touch down safely. It was this reusable rocket's fifth and final landing, and CEO Jeff Bezos plans to throw it a retirement party.
For the pressed-of-time, Blue Origin posted a condensed version of the launch that's under three minutes, showing the capsule eject at nearly 500 mph and then land safely, minutes later, in the gentle single-digits.
"All astronauts on board would have had a pretty exhilarating ride, but a safe ride," Ariane Cornell, live feed commentator and Blue Origin Business Development and Strategist said as the crew capsule touched down. Exhilarating is one word for it. Hopefully, the six space tourists that the commercial spaceflight company hopes to someday blast into suborbit won't ever need to experience this part of the ride.
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