But before i get to that, i want to congratulate virgin orbit the sister company of virgin galactic for their first commercial flight, where they carried four cubesats into orbit. So this was using their launcher, one vehicle which is carried under cosmic girl, which is a refurbished 747. They took off from mojave air and spaceport flew out over the pacific, did a test run and then launched their rock, and we got to see this during a live stream. So immediately after launch, we got to look back at the rock and it did have this uh problem that we saw previously where there were some roll oscillations early in the flight. Having said that, it seems that we didn’t see any of the oscillations later on. So they’ve certainly improved that situation. The vehicle made it all the way to orbit and they also demonstrated relight of the main engines in orbit, which is a really good feature to have so a virgin orbit are going to have at least another few launches. They already have another few launches on the calendar and i hope to see more, but coming back to the main account yeah it got well. I woke up one day to see the news on jeff bezos’s instagram that wally funk was going to fly on the first flight of blue origin’s, new shepard and yeah. You may not have heard of wally funk, but you know i have her name. His real name is mary wallace, funk shortened to wally funk, and i guess she’s, one of the mercury 13 and i’m using finger quotes because mercury 13 was really a sort of media creation that basically, this is a group of 13 women who the doctor, who did All the medical tests for the mercury, seven, the original and seven american astronauts he wanted to see if women were able to do this, so he got a bunch of pilot women, pilots together and uh.

You filtered them down and they ended up with 13 of them. Who passed all the first round tests, some of them better than the astronauts let’s, be clear better than the male astronauts and mary or sorry wally funk? She was one of the few. I think maybe the only one that actually completed all three rounds of the testing and also demonstrated better results than some of the astronauts that were flying in space. There was because this program was not official, nasa actually started to become hostile to it and they stopped them using nasa facilities at one point, so they had to come up with alternatives to do this, but um yeah long story short. She tried to fly to space in the 1960s and nasa pushed back against, and their main justification was that they absolutely had to have jet pilot experience and that was practically impossible for women to get because they weren’t allowed in the air force famously in the 1960s Or 1950s, actually, i think it was jackie cochran wanted. She was like a famous woman pilot. She wanted to set the air speed record for women and she’s an american citizen. So what does she do? She goes to the u.s air force and says: could i borrow one of your f 86s? You know, and they said no, so she went to canada and said: could i borrow one of yours and they said sure, because you know canada’s, cool and they’re, not weird like the us was and yes you set the records and everything now um.

She would actually then be sort of one of the proponents or for the mercury 13, although she originally had the idea that she might fly to space, and it became clear that she was kind of too old by that point. But yeah ultimately there’s a moment where there’s a letter that gets drafted by someone at the white house to nasa to ask about this jet requirement and it makes it the desk of lyndon b johnson and he just writes let’s, stop this now over it and yeah. It never happened so now 2021. She is gon na fly for a few minutes to space finally and that’s fantastic. I think it shows that jeff bezos actually has an awareness of space history that perhaps you know maybe elon or richard branson, maybe don’t have but yeah when she flies for the moment that she’s in space, she will be the most experienced pilot in space. Think about that she has 19 600 pilot hours. She has been a flight instructor for ever. She’S worked with the national transportation safety board, they worked with faa and all sorts of like. Basically, if you look at her wikipedia page you’ll see all the different roles that she ended up with in and most of those end up saying she was the first woman to do this. So look uh, obviously an amazingly qualified individual one whose time is is definitely overdue. When she flies she will be 82. She will be the oldest person to ever fly in space, and i hope that i am as capable and as bright at 82 as she is.

I think this is amazing, so that’s gon na fly on july 20th, a few hours after that announcement virgin galactic made an announcement. They released a slick, video saying, we’re gon na fly our first force a full uh flight of spaceship two with two pilots and four mission specialists and among those mission, sp specialists. There will be richard branson, so yes, that’s going to be uh on july 11th. So that’s nine days before this is the flight date of blue origins. New shepherd. This is richard. Branson just wanted to make sure he’s, first uh, the virgin or sorry the blue origin flight that’s, going to be jeff bezos his brother unknown, paid passenger. By the way we don’t know and wally funk so that’s, four people um, but the virgin galactic flight that will have dave mackay and michael masuki as the pilot, and then they will have beth moses who’s previously flown on this she’ll, be you know, acting as a You know trainer or whatever she’s she’s, basically in charge of the crew, training or pilot or passenger training, they’re going to have colin bennett, who’s their lead operations, engineer and sirisha bandia or badla who’s. Basically, she is like virgin galactic’s vp of government contracts and research and stuff, and so she’ll actually be performing a scientific experiment for the university of florida during the flight and then, of course, rounding out the mission specialists. You have richard branson who’s evaluating the customer.

Experience of course he is uh yeah. So, like the thing is we sort of knew this was coming. We knew that this was a possibility right, but nobody would say it out loud until this week, so it hasn’t exactly come as a surprise, but equally it was kind of interesting to see this happening on the same day as these two announcements. Okay, so these are two very different vehicles: virgin galactic has spaceship two, which is a rocket powered aircraft dropped from a carrier. Aircraft blue origin has new shepard, which is a single stage. Hydrogen powered rocket with a crew capsule on top that lands under parachutes. So uh, you know they both offer different things. I think actually in some ways, new shepard. The views are more amazing because you’ve got these much bigger windows and it goes slightly higher virgin. Galactic, spaceship 2 is a plane and it does cool stuff and it’s actually flown by a person at the controls, and it has this big hybrid rocket motor, where it’s, basically uh like a you fuel, any solid casing, and then they blow hot nitrous oxide down it And that causes a rocket thrust or whatever and they fly it upwards. There’S there’s a pair of pilots flying at these controls and they fly at speeds greater than mach 3., and this is actually an old school type control system with reversible controls. There are actually cables that link those controls to the things there’s no fly by wire system or anything here and that’s something you generally don’t see your supersonic aircraft with reversible controls, no fly by wire systems or anything to get in the way.

What will happen? Is it pulls up into this climb after launch and as the engine shuts off and it starts to get to the thinner parts of the atmosphere? It then folds its tail planes into a vertical orientation so that when it comes back down, the belly of the aircraft is pointing straight down, and that is decelerating the spacecraft through the thinner parts of the atmosphere so that they get subsonic once they get to thicker Parts of the atmosphere, if you did this with a regular aircraft like the x 15, it went up and then, when it came back down, it would be like a lawn dart and they had to pull this thing out of this dive, and that was obviously quite An extreme experience so yeah new shepard, as i said they have this single stage rocket. They use a hydrogen engine which is kind of interesting because it’s more expensive to work with hydrogen, but also, i think this is this – is the first vehicle that’s really had a large number of flights that uses a combustion tap off cycle that’s, where the turbo pumps? Instead of having a separate gas generator, they essentially have a pipe in the combustion chamber that feeds into the turbo pumps and drives those so it’s a sort of simpler system, but it’s harder to balance. In many ways this booster goes up and once they cut that off, they detach and the capsule proceeds upwards on its own trajectory.

It reaches about 105 kilometers and then comes back down slowly and lands on the desert with a parachute and a little rocket motor. The booster it deploys air brakes and aerodynamic hardware, it comes down and it then lands on the landing pad using rocket motors so that’s a kind of a cool demonstration there. You blue origin, are fond of saying that they were the first people to fly a rod. Booster to space twice and come back and of course, spacex and response said yeah, but you didn’t go orbital and there’s a little bit of this going on here, because blue origin are going to fly to 105 kilometers, whereas virgin galactic are only going to fly to About 90, something kilometers they’re not going to exceed 100 kilometers, and you know that actually is kind of a big deal, because the international definition of space is about 100 kilometers that’s, the fai. That decided that, however, in the us, the definition is 50 miles, which then subsequently has been rounded off to 80 kilometers, and a lot of this dates to an argument by theodore von carmen. They call this the karman line, and his argument is that space should begin where the forces due to gravity and your gra acceleration exceed the aerodynamic forces that they would expect experience in these um. Your trajectories, and you know what you you do. Is you sort of figure out how fast you have to go? Just remain airborne and a certain point between about 80 and 100 kilometers it flips over.

You basically says you have to be moving at orbital velocity to maintain lift, and i think – and this is where you know – there’s a little bit of history, so the fai decided to round that up to 100 kilometers the us decided to round that to about 50 Miles and there’s actually a good argument that it should be about 50 miles, and the main argument is that we have seen many satellites in highly eccentric orbits that go out a long way and then they fall back down and they pass through. The outer layers of the atmosphere and they’re able to pass through below 100 kilometers many times, but once they get below about 80 kilometers, they fall out of the sky very, very quickly, so from a legal or from a sort of physics point of view. The argument is that 80 kilometers makes makes a lot more sense and jonathan mcdowell was one of the scientists. Who’S really looked at this a whole lot, so i’m. Actually, okay with using this lower definition of space, and yet it will be very cool when virgin galactic. Actually fly because they will have six people on board, and that means for a minute or so when they’re above the carmen line or their version of the carmen line. There will be six extra people in space there’s. Currently, 10 people in space there’s three in the chinese space station uh four uh. They flew up on a dragon on the iss and three that have flown up under soyuz, so that’s 10 plus six.

That will be 16 people in space. That will be a record number of people in space for a very short time. The current record is 13 also, so when blue origin’s new shepard flies, if they somehow you know the schedule, drifts or lags and blue origin get their first 14 would also be a record number of people in space um speaking of records. Incidentally, i sort of realized that the pilots for virgin galactic – they will be flying multiple trips to space and if they do this with any real cadence, it it’s quite possible that the at the pilots for virgin galactic will have the record number of space flights. In a very short time – and you know also talking about records – we have wally funk who’s going to be the oldest astronaut ever this year. We’Ll also see the youngest american astronaut as a haley. Arsenault is going to be 29 years old she’s the in the soviet union. They flew, like gagarin, was 27. uh german titoff. Who is the record holder? He was only 25 and um valentina tereshkova was 26, but haley arsenault will be 29 she’ll, be the youngest astronaut and she’ll spend several days in space. You know. One other thing that occurred to me was that the up the fourth passenger on blue origin – you know they clearly paid a lot of money and part of that attraction was not just being first, but also getting to hang out with jeff bezos and talk about things.