Jeff Bezos’ New Shepard To Fly Reality Competition Winners

Blue Origin's New Shepard capsule descends with crew aboard in 2022. Image: SERA/Blue Origin.
Blue Origin’s New Shepard capsule descends with crew aboard in 2022. Image: SERA/Blue Origin.

Blue Origin’s next flight will be populated with an international crew of contest-winners tapped by the Space Exploration & Research Agency (SERA), a for-profit company that pivoted from cryptocurrency to space democratization.

Three seats will go to passengers from India, Nigeria, and the Small Island Developing States, two more to other nations whose citizens have been underrepresented in spaceflight, and the final one to any person eligible to fly in the US. 

SERA plans to host online voting to select applicants, who will apply for a small fee and compete in reality-show style contests for the chance to perform research projects in a reusable rocket launched from west Texas.. 

Quite a pivot: SERA got its start as the Crypto Space Agency, and the first astronaut it placed on a New Shepard flight got there after minting a randomly-selected NFT. “This is just the beginning of Web3 platforms transforming human society in real life,” co-founder Joshua Skurla said at the time. 

These days, crypto is on the outs, and SERA’s new business model borrows from reality TV. The company said finalists will “come together to have their journeys documented as they push through the final phase of the selection process….Candidates will form into crews, with 1 representative from each seat, to compete in series [sic] of challenges that will be streamed over several episodes.”

A funnel of firsts: Blue Origin’s New Shepard has already flown the first Portuguese astronaut and the oldest person to go to space. SERA, in its previous incarnation, sponsored the second Brazilian to go into space, Victor Hepanha, on a 2022 flight.

Following a 21-month hiatus from crewed flight after a 2022 launch anomaly, Blue returned to flight with six passengers in May. No date has been announced for the mission, although SERA’s website suggests it will be after Q3. Presumably, we’ll have to tune in and find out.

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