Space race: Blue Origin carries out 4th crewed spaceflight

Jeff Bezos´ Blue Origin successfully carried out its fourth crewed spaceflight Thursday, a ten-minute ride beyond the planet´s atmosphere and back again.

The New Shepard suborbital rocket blasted off from the company´s Launch Site One base in west Texas at 8:58 am local time (1358 GMT) with six crew members.

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The crew included Gary Lai, chief architect of the New Shepard program, plus five paying customers — though the ticket price hasn´t been disclosed.

“I felt my skin pulling taut,” Lai said, of the rocket ride.

Lai´s inclusion came after comedian Pete Davidson, the boyfriend of reality star Kim Kardashian, canceled his participation without disclosing a reason.

After launch, the reusable, zero greenhouse gas emissions rocket landed vertically at a pad, while the capsule continued soaring, crossing the Karman line that marks the start of space, 100 kilometers (62 miles) high.

Passengers unbuckled and enjoyed a few minutes of weightlessness, taking in the majesty of Earth before the capsule re-entered the atmosphere, deployed its chutes and floated to the surface for a gentle desert landing.

Blue Origin´s past flights have included its founder Bezos as well as Star Trek icon William Shatner.

After years of promise, the space tourism sector is finally taking off.

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Lai told reporters the company was continuing to make improvements to the vehicle “under the hood” aimed at pushing down costs and reducing the time between flights.

“Someday you´re going to see us launching every single week,” he said.

Elon Musk´s SpaceX is targeting next week to fly three tycoons and a former astronaut to the International Space Station on the Axiom-1 mission — though the crew involved insist they´re doing serious research work rather than going on vacation.

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