Blue Origin space tourist carries Ukrainian flag aboard latest flight

Professor and entrepreneur Jim Kitchen, who was one of the passengers aboard Blue Origin’s latest private spaceflight, carried with him a Ukrainian flag as a symbol of support to the country that has been under Russian invasion since 24 February.

On Thursday, Blue Origin successfully launched its fourth crewed space tourism flight aboard the company’s New Shepard rocket, mission number NS-20.

The other crew members included the first married couple to fly together on a private spacecraft – Sharon Hagle and Marc Hagle – as well as corporate businessman Marty Allen.

“So in my passport, I brought both the Ukrainian and American flags, and I released them, just paying my respects to the situation that’s occurring there now and just to let them know that our hearts collectively are with them,” Mr Kitchen, a faculty member of the University of North Carolina business school, told after Thursday’s flight.

The entrepreneur reportedly brought him 10 passports, which bear the stamps of his visits to all 193 countries recognized by the UN.

He is currently the first person ever to make all those international trips around the Earth, and also go to space, according to Blue Origin.

Blue Origin employee Gary Lai, the chief architect of the New Shepard system, also joined the crew, getting his ticket to space, originally reserved for Saturday night Live star Pete Davidson. But the comedian backed out due to scheduling conflicts.

Former Nasa flight integration office manager Dr George Nield was also part of the trip to space.

“I’ve obviously been thinking about what this experience will be like for our astronauts, and to experience it myself was a joy. It was 10 times more intense than I thought it would be, or anything that I’ve ever experienced in my life physically, mentally, emotionally,” Mr Lai said post-flight.

Thursday’s spaceflight took the astronauts past the Karmen Line – an imaginary boundary 100km (62 miles) above mean sea level – and returned them safely back to Earth.

“We had the honor of safely flying this crew of six – each person with their own story of mentorship and passion for human spaceflight. We’re looking forward to many more flights this year, and we’re grateful to our astronaut customers for their trust in this amazing team,” said Phil Joyce, senior vice president of New Shepard for Blue Origin.

As Ukraine marked five weeks of Russian invasion on Friday, delegations from Moscow and Ukraine are set to resume peace talks again over video amid little hope for a swift resolution of the conflict.

The Independent has a proud history of campaigning for the rights of the most vulnerable, and we first ran our Refugees Welcome campaign during the war in Syria in 2015. Now, as we renew our campaign and launch this petition in the wake of the unfolding Ukrainian crisis, we are calling on the government to go further and faster to ensure help is delivered.

To find out more about our Refugees Welcome campaign, click here. To sign the petition click here. If you would like to donate then please click here for our GoFundMe page.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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