Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture has confirmed that “Saturday Night Live” comedian Pete Davidson will be going to space next week, less than a year after he portrayed a hapless Mars astronaut on NBC’s late-night sketch show.
Bezos won’t be accompanying Davidson, even though that was the impression given by some of last week’s gossip about the flight. Instead, five paying passengers will be riding alongside the 28-year-old actor, who co-wrote and starred in a semi-autobiographical movie titled “The King of Staten Island” in 2020.
The other five spacefliers listed in today’s announcement are:
- Marty Allen, an angel investor and the former CEO of Party America and California Closet Company, among other ventures.
- Marc Hagle, the president and CEO of Tricor International, a residential and commercial property development corporation.
- Sharon Hagle, the founder of SpaceKids Global, a nonprofit organization focusing on STEAM+ education, with a special emphasis on empowering girls. SpaceKids participates in the Postcards to Space program led by the Club for the Future, Blue Origin’s educational foundation. Marc and Sharon Hagle are husband and wife.
- Jim Kitchen, a teacher, entrepreneur and explorer who has served on the faculty of the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School since 2010.
- George Nield, a former associate administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation who is now the president of Commercial Space Technologies.
Blue Origin said Davidson would be getting a free flight as the company’s guest. The company declined to say how much the other fliers would be paying for their trips.
Liftoff from Blue Origin’s Launch Site One in West Texas is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. CT (6:30 a.m. PT) on March 23. Blue Origin is due to begin live streaming coverage via its website at T-60 minutes.
The mission will mark the 20th flight for Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital space program, and the fourth crewed flight. There’s been at least one celebrity guest aboard each of the crewed flights — including aviation pioneer Wally Funk, Star Trek captain William Shatner and Laura Shepard Churchley, the daughter of the late Mercury astronaut Alan Shepard (after whom New Shepard is named).
Like those earlier flights, next week’s NS-20 trip will involve launching the hydrogen-fueled, reusable New Shepard suborbital spacecraft to a height beyond 100 kilometers (62 miles) — the so-called Karman Line that marks the internationally accepted boundary of outer space.
Davidson and his fellow fliers would experience a few minutes of weightlessness inside the crew capsule, get a good look at the black sky above and the Earth below through the capsule’s giant windows, and then descend to a parachute-assisted landing in the Texas desert.
The whole trip should take about 10 minutes — which is about three times as long as the “Chad on Mars” sketch that featured Davidson and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk during an episode of “Saturday Night Live” last year.
Blue Origin said each of the spacefliers on next week’s mission will carry a postcard to space on behalf of the Club for the Future. The nonprofit club collects postcards from students, has them flown aboard New Shepard, and then mails the space-flown cards back to the senders.
New Shepard is just one of the space programs being pursued by Bezos’ 22-year-old space venture, which is headquartered in Kent, Wash.
The privately held company is also working on its next-generation BE-4 rocket engine, an orbital-class New Glenn reusable rocket, a lunar landing system, a nuclear thermal propulsion system and a space station project called Orbital Reef.