January 12, 2022

NS-19 Launch Experience: Part 2

I finished Part 1 of this blog saying that the launch experience changed my life. Now I suspect you may be sitting there thinking that’s a silly statement for me to make given I didn’t fly in space… but let me explain…

My whole life I have loved space. And yes, I would LOVE to travel to space. I have had the honor of training many Astronauts to fly to the International Space Station. These humans have made it their career’s work to do this. It takes years and years to be able to train to fly in space and the number of things that can disqualify you from ever getting selected are more than I could probably quantify.

20 years ago, while the idea of the “average” person flying to space sounded lovely, it still seemed like little more than a science fiction hopeful thought. Honestly, even 10 years ago while I was more hopeful, it still felt a long way off. But it’s not. It’s here in some ways. Seeing 6 humans launch to space who hadn’t spent years and years training to be an Astronaut… who, who knows maybe had one of those disqualifying things that NASA etc. can use to eliminate some of the applicants… who wanted to go to space yet perhaps didn’t have the pathway to become a career Astronaut… it changed me. I always tell students “No doesn’t have to mean no for forever, maybe it’s just no for right now” with respect to something they are working towards accomplishing… Spaceflight like this starts to open doors to so many people who were told “No” – it truly makes it that it isn’t “NO” forever. That’s powerful.

Okay, so back to the actual experience of the launch viewing and post-launch things… After we watched the crew climbing from the capsule on TV, we had the opportunity to visit the Astronaut Training Center.

This building houses a New Shepard capsule and seat trainer as well as “locker rooms” for the crew on the mission.

As a former Astronaut Trainer I was geeked out to get to see the facility where they do training. I loved that the flight profile is emblazoned on the wall (visuals are always key for training!) and was thrilled to get to crawl into the New Shepard training capsule.  Sitting in the seat I could vividly imagine what it would be like to be strapped in for flight with great excitement and anticipation of the journey.

This vehicle is a beauty! And the windows… wow the windows are incredible. What an amazing portal to view our planet on this space journey.

After visiting the Training Center we had the opportunity to head out to the Landing Pad and see the New Shepard Booster. To say this was sooooooooooooooo cool would be an understatement. Perhaps my biggest understatement of 2021. To be so close to this booster that had just flown, I sort of had to pinch myself.

This rocket had just carried 6 people to space and there I was up close (sort of – in the scheme of things) and personal with it. Former NASA Administrator and Retired Astronaut General Charlie Bolden has been known to say things like this are “turning science fiction into science fact” and having seen boosters fly back to landing sites with my own eyes in person, I totally agree! 20 years ago, it seemed like science fiction yet here we are with this as a new reality.

It was such an honor to get to attend this launch with many other Club for the Future supporters. It’s an honor to collaborate with many of these individuals and organizations to help inspire the next generation of STEMists and Explorers.

This launch was one I will remember forever. It also left me wondering… What Higher Orbits student will be the first to fly on a Blue Origin flight? I can’t wait for time to tell!

About the author

Michelle Lucas
Founder & President of Higher Orbits

Michelle spent 10 years working at NASA primarily in International Space Station (ISS) Flight Control Operations Planning and as an Astronaut Instructor in the Daily Operations Group. Her passion for inspiring students led to extensive work with other organizations in STEM outreach. She then decided to form Higher Orbits to continue to work to inspire students about the wonders of STEM through spaceflight.

Michelle Lucas


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