Thank you everyone for all your well wishes. I have literally heard from hundreds of you, including long lost friends I haven’t spoken with in decades. It has been an overwhelming experience and I am not even on the ground in West Texas yet!
To recap, on December 9th the third crewed mission aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket will take myself and five other commercial astronauts to space. This is the 19th mission for the New Shepard rocket, thus the mission designation of NS-19. In honor of the mission, the leadership team at Space for Humanity designed this commemorative patch. What do you think? I personally think it is stunning. Can you identify all the iconography around the edges? Please DM me with your feedback. I would love to hear from you.
On the day of launch, I will be blasting off from near Van Horn in West Texas at 8:30 a.m. CST. My wife and I will stay in an airstream near the launch site, affectionately called Astronaut Village, and I’ll wake up around 4 a.m. in preparation for the 100 kilometer journey above Earth.
I’ll then suit up for the ride of a lifetime. Similar to the other Blue Origin Astronauts I’ll be wearing a light, blue flight suit with my name, D. Taylor, and the image of Blue Origin’s rocket blasting off the launchpad. I have been fitted for the suit but have yet to try it on. This is one of the things I am most looking forward to ahead of the flight. When I am on the ground in West Texas, I will provide more details on my experience and the training we are undergoing. Look for that in Part III.
The Buy One, Give One Pledge
As I mentioned in Part I of this series, I called for all other commercial astronauts to consider a set of gifts that will pay it forward and support organizations here on Earth. I call it “Buy one, Give one,” and the response has been overwhelming. I myself have pledged to donate the equivalent amount of my ticket price to worthy causes here on Earth.
I strongly believe that our current focus on reaching space doesn’t mitigate our focus on important causes and issues that impact life here on Earth. On the contrary, I believe our collective future in space is fully dependent on us addressing seemingly intractable problems here on Earth. Those problems require perspective and they require resources. Commercial astronauts are predicted to spend several hundred million dollars in the next five years and if they were to all help support an initiative on Earth, their impact could create significant accessible and diversified space exploration opportunities and advancement for humanity here on Earth.
Here are the organizations that I plan to support described in a bit more detail:
Founded by George Whitesides and Anna Voelker, AstroAccess is dedicated to advancing disability inclusion in space exploration. AstroAccess recognizes the perspective that the human race’s most intractable challenges, including climate change, pandemics and poverty, must be addressed on a global scale. Space exploration allows us to adjust our perspective from this larger scale and demands we reimagine what divides and connects people. For instance, seeing our home planet when we first landed on the moon brought humanity together in ways that made us consider the need for global collaboration.
AstroAccess believes that space eliminates barriers between humans and we thus must remove the barrier to space. The organization’s mission focuses on advancing disability inclusion in space, not only for opportunities for marginalized communities, but for the benefit of humankind. AstroAccess’ inclusive missions will not only help to create more innovative solutions in space exploration, but also fosters the inherent strengths and talents of disabled astronauts to enhance space missions. It is my privilege to support this organization to help with its mission of supporting the next generation of disabled students, scientists, athletes and artists to see that STEM includes them.
Since 2010, Edesia Nutrition has worked to eradicate global malnutrition and hunger for the world’s vulnerable populations through their partnerships with UNICEF, the World Food Programme, USAID/USDA and more to have nourished over 15 million children in 60 countries. Founded by Navyn Salem, the organization manufactures innovative ready-to-use foods that have helped to feed 2.5 million people each year.
Edesia has completed several case studies on how their products help battle hunger and malnutrition. Sourcing over 45 million pounds of US-sourced materials each year, they create 1.5 million cartons of food to support their efforts. Check out their website to learn more about how their portable, ready-to-eat Plumpy’Nut and other foods helped to create innovative solutions to world hunger and malnutrition.
The Brooke Owens Fellowship
The renowned fellowship program supports women and non-binary individuals with internships and executive mentorship at leading aerospace companies in the industry. Developed to honor the legacy of beloved space industry professional Dawn Brooke Owens (1980-2016), the fellowship is purposeful in providing inspiration and a career boost to young women and other gender minorities. Similar to Brooke, these members aspire to explore the cosmos and help revolutionize the aerospace industry, while also helping fellow citizens of Earth.
Each year, 40 fellowship students are matched with purpose-driven, paid internships at leading aerospace organizations and companies across the sector with two senior and executive-level mentors who can help them grow along the way. Over 12 weeks in the summer, fellows complete meaningful projects, learn valuable industry skills and earn a living wage. During the summer, all participants meet for an exclusive Summit to make valuable connections and collaborate on team projects and take advantage of one-on-one mentoring sessions and private Q&A sessions with Congresswomen, CEOs, astronauts, and company founders. Each fellow is then forever included in the Brook Owens fellowship network, with a direct line of communication to the program’s founders, mentors, and host companies, among others.
The Patti Grace Smith Fellowship
A close cousin of the award-winning Brooke Owens Fellowship, The Patti Grace Smith Fellowship program supports African Americans’ access to the space industry. Founders B. Alvin Drew, Jr, Khristian Jones, Tiffany Russell Lockett, and Will Pomerantz created the program as an effective, meaningful pathway to help advance people who have encountered systematic bias due to their race and ethnicity in the aerospace industry. As they focus on their mission, they seek to promote meaningful change in how the aerospace industry acknowledges and addresses racial and ethnic equity and inclusion and in its leadership roles.
The program also offers exceptional Black students with work experience in the industry, along with personalized mentorship and a network of talented young black aerospace students pursuing aerospace careers. Additionally, the program provides cash grants to help get fellows started in their careers. All Patti Grace Smith participants receive a cash grant of $2,500 or more that can be used for school tuition and fees, books, educational supplies, and the equipment needed for their college coursework, allowing them to focus on learning in their aerospace careers.
To learn more about Patti Grace Smith and her amazing legacy, please click here.
Space for Humanity
Last but not least, Space for Humanity is a nonprofit organization I founded that I continue to support annually. The mission is to build a foundation for a diverse and inclusive future in space as the organization focuses on democratizing space access for everyone. Organizing the planet’s first Sponsored Citizen Astronaut Program, Space for Humanity gives leaders from any industry or area can apply the opportunity to travel to space and experience the awe-inspiring overview effect, in exchange for a fellowship commitment to positively impact the Earth.
Every year, a new space crew is selected from a diverse set of global leaders. Upon their return, these citizen astronauts serve a commitment to leverage their experience for the collective good of humanity. The citizen spaceflight program provides leadership training and collaborative education to the public to help advance the society we need both at home and amongst the stars. Space for Humanity believes that who we dedicate ourselves to be on Earth will determine who we are in space — and we plan to be a group of ethical, passionate and collaborative innovators.
Learn how you can apply to become a citizen astronaut and learn more about the organization here.
As I discussed in Part I, I truly believe space is a tool for transformation. Space for Humanity’s efforts, as well as the Buy one, Give one Pledge encouraging future astronauts to give back, can help pave the way for new solutions to persistent problems. This moment in human spaceflight is an incredible opportunity for a fresh perspective. Step by step, we are creating a brighter future.
Look for Part III of Journey to the Dream this weekend from on the ground in West Texas