UAE adventurer travels to edge of space on Blue Origin flight

Hamish Harding experienced a few minutes of weightlessness before returning to Earth

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A UAE adventurer travelled to the edge of space on a Blue Origin flight on Saturday.

Hamish Harding, 50, known for his adrenalin-fuelled stunts, was launched on a New Shepard rocket from rural West Texas, along with five other passengers.

The entire experience, from launch to landing, lasted about 10 minutes.

The fully reusable suborbital vehicle lifted off at 5.26pm UAE time, carrying the crew capsule towards the final frontier.

Once the spacecraft separated from the booster at 5.29pm, it reached 106 kilometres above the ground, bringing the passengers a few minutes of weightlessness as well as stunning views of Earth and the darkness of space.

The capsule then descended towards the Texas desert under three parachutes and retro engines, bringing the passengers safely back to the ground at 5.36pm.

Apollo 16 moonwalker Charles Duke was also at the launch site and wished the passengers good luck.

Mr Harding said that he wanted to go to space since the age of 5, after watching videos of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walking on the Moon.

“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,” he told The National days before the flight.

Mr Harding has lived in the UAE for more than a decade and is the chairman of Action Aviation, which provides aircraft brokerage services to business jet and helicopter owners.

Last year, he dived into the Mariana Trench in the Pacific, the deepest point on Earth. In 2019, he flew around the world in a record-breaking flight with Nasa astronaut Terry Virts.

Other passengers on the flight were 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.

Blue Origin, a space tourism company founded by Amazon chief Jeff Bezos, has now launched 26 people to the edge of space on its New Shepard flights.

Mr Bezos went on a joyride himself on the first passenger flight last year. Other notable customers have included Star Trek actor William Shatner and TV personality Michael Strahan.

The company has not revealed how much a passenger ticket costs, but its competitor Virgin Galactic charges $450,000 per seat, though flights are not yet operational.

At auction last year, Blue Origin sold one of its seats for $28 million.

Mr Harding could soon be only one of many Blue Origin customers from the UAE.

The company’s regional adviser, AzurX, is planning a series of select events around space flight sales in the Emirates.

Anna Hazlett, chief executive of the company, said Dubai has the potential to become a global centre for space tourism.

"We're excited to develop the road map for private human space flight in the UAE and we look forward to working with our strategic partners to offer private space flights and experiences to UAE citizens, residents and visitors," she told The National.

Updated: June 04, 2022, 2:35 PM
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