Strahan flies to space with astronaut’s daughter: ‘Wow!’

Dec 10, 2021, 1:25 PM | Updated: Dec 11, 2021, 11:39 am

TV celebrity and former NFL football great Michael Strahan, right, hugs Laura Shepard Churchley, the oldest daughter of America's first astronaut, Alan Shepard, during interview after their space shot at near Van Horn, Texas, Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

(AP Photo/LM Otero)

Football star and TV celebrity Michael Strahan caught a ride to space with Jeff Bezos’ rocket-launching company Saturday, sharing the trip with the daughter of America’s first astronaut.

“TOUCHDOWN has a new meaning now!!!” he tweeted after landing.

Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket blasted off from West Texas, sending the capsule on a 10-minute flight with the two VIP guests and four paying customers. Their automated capsule soared to an altitude of 66 miles (106 kilometers), providing a few minutes of weightlessness before parachuting into the desert. The booster also came back to land successfully.

It was five minutes and 50 miles (187 kilometers) shorter than Alan Shepard’s Mercury flight from Florida’s Cape Canaveral on May 5, 1961. His eldest daughter, Laura Shepard Churchley, took along a tiny piece of his Freedom 7 capsule as well as mementos from his Apollo 14 moonshot. She also packed some golf balls; her dad hit a couple on the lunar surface.

A co-host of ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Strahan bubbled over with excitement in updates for the show all week. He took along his Super Bowl ring and retired New York Giants jersey No. 92. Bezos stashed a football on board that will go to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

As soon as he emerged from the capsule, Strahan said he wanted to go again. But Bezos joked he’d have to buy his own ticket next time.

In a video he posted later, Strahan called the experience surreal and unbelievable: “Wow! That’s all I can say. Wow!”

At the launch complex near Van Horn, Bezos had “Light this candle” painted on the launch tower’s bridge, borrowing from Alan Shepard’s famous gripe from inside Freedom 7 as the delays mounted: “Why don’t you fix your little problem and light this candle?”

Shepard Churchley — who volunteered for Blue Origin’s third passenger flight — borrowed her late father’s phrase, yelling “Let’s light this candle!” while awaiting takeoff. Fierce wind held up her flight for two days.

She heads the board of trustees for the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation.

“I thought about Daddy coming down and thought, gosh he didn’t even get to enjoy any of what I’m getting to enjoy,” Shepard Churchley said following touchdown. “He was working. He had to do it himself. I went up for the ride!”

Saturday’s launch marks the last one this year by private U.S. companies as space tourism finally takes off. Virgin Galactic kicked it off in July, sending up its billionaire founder, Richard Branson, followed by Blue Origin and SpaceX. So many are flying that the Federal Aviation Administration announced Friday it will no longer designate who is a commercial astronaut or give out wings.

Bezos, who founded Amazon six years before Blue Origin, was on his company’s debut launch in July. The second, in October, included actor William Shatner — Captain James Kirk of TV’s original “Star Trek.” The late Leonard Nimoy’s daughter sent up a necklace with a “Vulcan Salute” charm on Saturday’s flight, in honor of the show’s original Mr. Spock.

Among the the four space tourists paying unspecified millions each were the first parent-child combo: financier Lane Bess and his son Cameron. Also flying: Voyager Space chairman and CEO Dylan Taylor and investor Evan Dick.

Blue Origin dedicated Saturday’s launch to Glen de Vries, who launched into space with Shatner, but died one month later in a plane crash.

___

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Australia's Lauren Jackson poses for a selfie with a young fan following their win over Japan at th...
Associated Press

Lauren Jackson, Aussie fans enjoying her World Cup finale

SYDNEY (AP) — Thirty minutes after Australia knocked off Canada in the preliminary round of the women’s basketball World Cup, Lauren Jackson was back on the court signing autographs and posing for selfies with hundreds of adoring fans. They couldn’t get enough of the Australian star and she reciprocated the love, not wanting to leave […]
1 day ago
Germany's head coach Hans-Dieter Flick, left, shakes hands with England's head coach Gareth Southga...
Associated Press

World Cup Watch: European giants showing flaws before Qatar

LONDON (AP) — All roads now lead to Qatar. With the conclusion of the group stage of the Nations League, Europe’s top soccer countries have played their final competitive games ahead of the World Cup. Here’s how things are shaping up for a continent that has provided the last four winners of the World Cup. […]
1 day ago
Two Nepali sherpa guides, second right and fourth right, who survived an avalanche at a lower eleva...
Associated Press

Body of missing famed U.S. extreme skier recovered in Nepal

KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — The body of a famed U.S. extreme skier who went missing this week after falling from the world’s eighth-highest mountain was recovered Wednesday and transported to Nepal’s capital. Hilaree Nelson, 49, was skiing down from the 8,163-meter (26,775-foot) summit of Mount Manaslu with her partner, Jim Morrison, on Monday when she […]
1 day ago
El relevista de los Padres de San Diego Nick Martínez reacciona durante el sexto inning del juego ...
Associated Press

Padres beat Dodgers 4-3 in 10 to reduce magic number to 4

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Jorge Alfaro is used to being in position to walk off games. Just not with a walk-off walk. Alfaro drew a bases-loaded free pass from Craig Kimbrel with two outs in the 10th inning and the San Diego Padres beat the NL West champion Los Angeles Dodgers 4-3 on Tuesday night […]
1 day ago
Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Robbie Raywals walks through the dugout after he was pulled from ...
Associated Press

Mariners’ late slide continues with 5-0 loss to Rangers

SEATTLE (AP) — Robbie Ray has an idea for how to get the Seattle Mariners refocused and hopefully out of their late-season slide. Stop worrying about what is happening elsewhere. “For me, we’ve just got to stop looking at the scoreboard. If it was my choice, we turn that thing off. Because we need to […]
1 day ago
Los Angeles Angels' Matt Duffy (5) scores ahead of a throw to Oakland Athletics catcher Sean Murphy...
Associated Press

Jo Adell’s 8th-inning RBI sends Angels past Athletics, 4-3

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Jo Adell drove in Matt Duffy with a tiebreaking RBI single in the eighth inning, Shohei Ohtani extended his hitting streak to a career-best 12 games, and the Los Angeles Angels opened their final homestand of the season with a 4-3 victory over the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday night. A.J. Puk […]
1 day ago
Strahan flies to space with astronaut’s daughter: ‘Wow!’