File photo from a previous Blue Origin New Shepard launch. Credit: Blue Origin

The third piloted flight of Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital spacecraft will launch on December 9 with a crew of six, including a Network Morning Anchor and the eldest daughter of Astronaut Mercury Alan Shepard, the first American in space. , the company announced on November 23.

ABC’s “Good Morning America” ​​Michael Strahan and Laura Shepard Churchley will fly as guests of Blue Origin, joining four paying clients: philanthropist Dylan Taylor, investor Evan Dick, founder of Lane Ventures Lane Bess and his son, Cameron.

Owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Blue Origin named its spacecraft and sub-orbital rocket after the late Alan Shepard, who took off on May 5, 1961 for a back-and-forth sub-orbital flight. in NASA’s Freedom 7 capsule. He was the second man to fly in space after cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin and the first American to do so.

Shepard became the fifth man to walk on the moon as the commander of the Apollo 14 mission in 1971, hitting a golf ball on the lunar surface. His daughter Laura, now 74, is chair of the board of directors of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, which raises funds and provides mentorship to students and academics in STEM.

“It’s pretty funny for me to say that an original Shepard will fly on the New Shepard,” Churchley said in a video tweeted by Blue Origin. “I am really happy to take a Blue Origin flight.

“I am very proud of my father’s legacy,” she added. “He was the first American in space and the fifth man on the moon and so far has been the only man to play golf on the moon. I think he would say the same thing as my kids: go ahead, Laura.

Strahan, a former professional football player and ‘Good Morning America’ co-host, will become the first news agency representative to fly into space and the second NFL veteran after the retired astronaut from NASA Leland Melvin.

The six crew members will attach to a New Shepard capsule on December 9 at the Blue Origin launch site near Van Horn, TX. This will be the third New Shepard flight carrying a crew, the company’s sixth flight this year and the first carrying a full complement of six crew members.

“When I was a young boy growing up in rural northern Idaho, I thought space flight was a possibility only a handful of astronauts could realize, and I never could have imagined that it would include me. someday, ”Taylor wrote in a blog post.

“To be one of the 600 humans to cross… in space since the dawn of time?” How could this even be possible? What an extraordinary privilege. But as many of us believe, with great privilege comes great responsibility. That’s why I intend to buy one / gift one. More on that later.

The New Shepard spacecraft is designed to carry passengers just above 62 miles, the internationally recognized “border” between discernible atmosphere and space. As the spacecraft reaches the top of its course and begins to descend, the crew will experience three to four minutes of weightlessness.

Blue Origin competes with Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic for passengers willing and able to pay over $ 500,000 per ticket to experience gravity-free and panoramic views of Earth from lower parts of space.

Virgin Galactic has launched four flights manned by its VSS Unity space plane, transporting Branson and the company’s pilots and engineers to altitudes just above 50 miles, the limit recognized by NASA and the FAA. Commercial flights are expected to start next year.

Blue Origin’s first piloted flight, carrying Bezos and three passengers, was in July, followed by a flight in October that carried “Star Trek” actor William Shatner into space, along with an executive. of the company and two paying customers.

A total of 601 people flew into space, 29 on suborbital spaceflight aboard the X-15 rocket plane, a privately developed space plane known as SpaceShipOne, Blue Origin’s New Shepard, and Unity. by Virgin Galactic.