Hamish Harding, 50, has explored the deepest part of the ocean and flown around the world in a record-breaking flight, but his next adventure will take him farther than he has ever been – to the edge of space.
The British businessman based in the UAE has purchased a ticket on Blue Origin’s upcoming space tourism flight, taking off on June 4, 5pm, UAE time.
It will take him and five other passengers 106 kilometres above the ground, granting them a few minutes of weightlessness.
The New Shepard flight was set for launch on May 20, but this was postponed so engineers could make repairs to the spacecraft.
Blue Origin has quickly become a leading space tourism company, having launched 20 people on these flights since 2021, including company owner and Amazon-founder Jeff Bezos and Star Trek actor William Shatner.
Mr Harding, a father of two, spoke to The National before the suborbital flight and told of his excitement.
Blasting off at incredible speeds
“It’s tremendously exciting. This rocket we’re leaving on – New Shepard, the Blue Origin rocket – does exactly what it’s supposed to do,” said Mr Harding, who is the chairman of Action Aviation, which provides aircraft brokerage services to many business jet and helicopter owners.
“It makes lots of noise and smoke and fires up in the air, with flames coming out of the bottom. That’s what a rocket is supposed to do. It’s a good old-fashioned rocket.”
He said that it is going to be “quite a serious ride”, with the crew experiencing a gravitational force equivalent of 3Gs on takeoff.
They will accelerate to more than 3,000 kilometres per hour and experience deceleration forces of about 5Gs during re-entry into the atmosphere.
“The outside heats up to about 700°C with the air resistance as we re-enter the atmosphere and, eventually, we’re slow enough to open the parachutes,” he said.
“So, it's an exciting process even if it will all go by very fast, I suspect.”
Taking personal items to space
Mr Harding, known for his adrenaline-fuelled stunts including a dive into the Mariana Trench in the Pacific last year, said he has always wanted to see Earth from above.
While he won't have the stunning views of the planet like astronauts on the International Space Station do, he will still get to enjoy the curvature of Earth and see its delicate atmosphere.
“I’ve been looking up at it [space] for many, many years now and I’ve always wanted to get a chance to look the other way – from up there, down here,” said Mr Harding.
For his flight, he will take a few souvenirs to space so he can gift them to his family and friends.
“These will be presents for people such as family and friends who aren't on the trip, especially my wife and two sons – they need something to remember the trip by, so they’ve got a thing that we're taking to space,” he said.
Training for the flight
The crew has received training for the flight. Mr Harding has flown in Zero-G aircraft in the US, including the 727, which flies parabolic arcs to simulate zero gravity.
Mr Harding said he is most excited about experiencing weightlessness during the Blue Origin flight.
“I've done a lot of those parabolic arcs but everybody tells me when you're actually in real space; it is different from the aircraft,” he said.
“It is genuine weightlessness, flying around the capsule. I’ve been told not to swim. Apparently the embarrassing thing on the videos is if you all seem to be swimming in the Zero-G, so I'm going try and restrict myself from doing that.”
The flight also includes investor and NS-19 crew member Evan Dick, electrical engineer and former Nasa test engineer Katya Echazarreta (also the first Mexican-born woman to fly into space), civil production engineer Victor Correa Hespanha, deep-sea diver Victor Vescovo and adventurer Jaison Robinson.
It is not clear how much the passengers have paid for the flight, but a ticket was previously sold for $28 million in an auction.