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Laura Shepard Churchley and Evan Dick participate in training for their mission to space
Laura Shepard Churchley flew as a guest of Blue OriginImage: Blue Origin/ZUMA Wire/imago images

Daughter of first US astronaut flies to space

December 11, 2021

The 74-year-old daughter of Alan Shepard brought along some golf balls, just like her father did. The flight by Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin company lasted just over 10 minutes.


The daughter of pioneering US astronaut Alan Shepard blasted off into space on Saturday aboard Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin commercial space tourism rocket.

Laura Shepard Churchley, 74, was only a schoolgirl when her father became the first US astornaut to travel to space in 1961 in a 10-minute suborbital flight as one of  NASA's original "Mercury Seven" astronauts.

Shepard Churchley was one of six passengers aboard Blue Origin's New Shepard spacecraft as it lifted off from a launch site outside the west Texas town of Van Horn. 

Laura Shepard Churchley, Lane Bess, Cameron Bess, Laura Shepard Churchley, Michael Strahan and Evan Dick
The group of six blasted off into space aboard the Blue Origin commercial space tourism rocket for just over 10 minutes Image: Blue Origin/AP/dpa/picture alliance

Michael Strahan, a retired National Football League star and co-anchor of ABC television's "Good Morning America" show, was also on board.

Also buckled in were four paying customers: space industry executive and philanthropist Dylan Taylor, investor Evan Dick, Bess Ventures founder Lane Bess and Cameron Bess. The Besses made history as the first parent-child pair to fly in space together, according to Blue Origin. 

The entire flight — from liftoff to touchdown — lasted just over 10 minutes. Ticket prices have not been disclosed.

'It was unreal'

The automated capsule soared to an altitude of about 66 miles (106 kilometers), providing a few minutes of weightlessness at the very apex of the suborbital flight before parachuting into the desert for a gentle landing. The booster also came back to land successfully.

Shepard Churchley, who heads the board of trustees for the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, took along a tiny piece of her father's Freedom 7 capsule as well as mementos from his Apollo 14 moonshot.

She also brought some golf balls — her father had famously hit two golf galls on the lunar surface as commander of the Apollo 14 Mission.

"I thought about Daddy coming down and thought, gosh he didn't even get to enjoy any of what I'm getting to enjoy," Shepard Churchley said following touchdown. "He was working. He had to do it himself. I went up for the ride!"

Her astronaut father, who died in 1998, went on to be the fifth of twelve men to have set foot on the Moon.

After emerging from the capsule, Strahan said, "It was unreal," adding that he wants to go again. Bezoz, however, joked he would have to buy his own ticket next time.

Space tourism race blasts off

mvb/fb (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)