By Florence Mafomemeh
Michael Strahan just became an astronaut. He just went were no news anchor has gone before. It was a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience for the ‘Good Morning America’ co-anchor who jetted off to space on Saturday on board Jeff Bezos’ New Shepard Blue Origin in Van Horn, Texas.
For anyone wondering how much the NFL hall of famer paid to join the trip of a lifetime, the answer is, nothing! Invited with Laura Shepard Churchley, the daughter of Alan Shepard, the first American astronaut to go to space, Strahan who covered the first Blue Origin launch in July soared into space as a distinguished guest and so he took the trip for free. The other four were paying customers.
The 50-year-old father of four said since covering the first human space launch from Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin in the July, he had become infatuated with human space travel and it inspired him to join the December launch. “Blue Origin, they approached me and they asked if I wanted to be a crew member and without hesitation, I said yes,” Strahan told his “GMA” co-hosts Robin Roberts and George Stephanopoulos. “I wanted to go to space!” he added.
And what a blast it was in the West Texas Desert! After a little delay to the 9:45 am countdown to launch, the bells rang and the seconds finally ticked down to one and the New Shepard rocket blasted off to space to the amazement of onlookers.
The six-man crew included Evan Dick, Dylan Taylor, Laura Shepard Churchley, the oldest daughter of Alan Shepard, America’s first astronaut who went to space 60 years ago and the first father-son duo, Lane Bess and Cameron Bess. This was the first time Blue Origin had six members on board the 11 minutes trip.
New Shepard Blue Origin traveled 60 miles and after the engine cut off, the former SuperBowl champion and the crew experienced three minutes of weightlessness, zero gravity. You could hear them giddy with excitement as they floated in space. When they crossed the Kármán line, they officially became astronauts.
Returning to earth, the booster landed first on the landing pad. As the capsule drifted back to earth, three parachutes opened first, then the capsule slowly landed on the West Texas Desert at exactly 10:15 seconds to the cheers and excitement of amazed onlookers.
This was the 19th time a New Shepard Blue origin has successfully flown. This first six-person crew is only the third time a Blue Origin with humans on board launched into space since its first flight on April 29, 2015. The other times were done by a mannequin called Skywalker Dummy.
After landing, the crew received their wings from Jeff Bezos which have their names and faces engraved next to their stars. The FOX NFL Sunday analyst and Co-host and his crew are the last Americans to receive those astronaut wings from the FAA.
Strahan included his most valuable, personal items into his three-pound weight limit bag that he brought with him on his giant leap to space. “This is a once in a lifetime experience, of course, you want to have your most prized possessions and meaningful belongings with you,” Strahan said on “GMA”. “I am taking my retired Giants jersey, my Hall of Fame ring, my Super Bowl ring, two watches: a pocket watch that belonged to my maternal grandfather and a rare De Bethune DB28 Kind of Blue timepiece with a celestial face and moon-phase function.”
The daytime Emmy winner said the most special thing to him when his father passed away and had his military funeral was 12 shell casings from the 12-gun salute performed, his ABC and FOX employee ID cards and a lucky $2 bill. “I’m taking those with me to outer space,” he said. “When we get back to Earth each item that we brought on board will get a special certificate saying it’s traveled to outer space. It’s really cool.”
Aside from his personal items, the Seven-Time Pro-Bowler received a surprise one from Jeff Bezos – a football. Handing the ball to the former Giant defensive tackle and former leading two seasons sack master, Bezos said, “We couldn’t send you to space without a football. When it returns, it will go straight to the Football Hall of Fame.”
In a Facebook post on day 2 of his space training, Strahan said it was different and a lot harder than we think. “I’ve done a lot of training camp, but this is definitely some training like no other down here,” Strahan said.
The Texas Southern University Graduate said that he wanted to be a part of scientific advancements by going to space. “It’s going to take a while, but I do believe it will bring a lot of technological breakthroughs and also innovations to us here on earth, and I just wanted to be a part of it,” he said.
Strahan isn’t the first familiar face to go to space. William Shatner, who is best known for his role in the original “Star Trek” series and the first six films in the “Star Trek” movie franchise, soared into space with Blue Origin in October. The 90-year-old actor became the oldest person to visit space.
Blue Origin says Its mission is to encourage future generations to embark on careers in STEM and to help invent the future of life in space.
The spacecraft is called New Shepard to honor Alan Shepard, the first American astronaut.
Strahan and his team were supposed to blast off on Thursday but Bezos’ space travel company,Blue Origin moved it to Saturday because of high wind.