SERA names India as partner country for Blue Origin space flight

The selected astronauts will be taken on an 11-minute journey past the Kármán line (100 km), the internationally recognised boundary of space.
Last Updated : 01 July 2024, 06:58 IST

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Bengaluru: The Space Exploration and Research Agency (SERA), on Monday, announced India as a partner nation in its human spaceflight programme, designed in collaboration with Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. The programme is envisioned for citizens from countries that have sent few or no astronauts to space.

SERA is offering citizens from across the world six seats on a future mission of Blue Origin’s reusable suborbital rocket, New Shepard. During an interaction in June, SERA co-presidents and founders Joshua Skurla and Sam Hutchison told DH that the US-based agency was looking at India as one of the five partner nations in the mission.

The selected astronauts will be taken on an 11-minute journey past the Kármán line (100 km), the internationally recognised boundary of space. They will experience “several minutes of weightlessness” before making a controlled descent back to the landing pad.

Skurla underlined the collaboration against the backdrop of the milestones India achieved as a space power over the past few years. “We want to make space accessible for everyone and are happy to offer this unique opportunity to an Indian citizen who wants to experience the wonders of space travel,” he said in a statement.

The final candidates for the mission, scheduled from the Blue Origin launch site in West Texas, will be voted on by the public. Indian citizens can register for the programme by paying a fee of ~$2.50, to cover the costs of verification checks that ensure safe and fair voting. Skurla said the mission was part of efforts to empower people across the world to have a stake in the future of space exploration.

The potential astronauts can campaign for votes by telling their stories to the public using their mission profile pages, social media, and other resources. Voting will progress through candidate elimination across three phases. The public can vote only for the candidates from their nation or region, except for the sixth global seat which is open to all countries.

Hutchison said the minimal physical requirements and training for New Shepard’s flight lowers the barrier to entry, by allowing more diverse and inclusive participation in space.

Phil Joyce, Senior Vice President, New Shepard, said the programme takes forward a stated commitment to make space accessible to all.

Skurla and Hutchison told DH that the programme, aimed at citizens from over 150 countries with limited access to space, could democratise space exploration and enable people to have a stake in the off-world economy.

Published 01 July 2024, 06:58 IST

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