How a Walmart worker with Down syndrome — and her sister — fought and beat the giant retailer after getting fired


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How much did Blue Origin cost?

The price was originally $200,000 and later raised to $250,000, but Virgin Galactic stopped sales in 2014 after a crash of its first space plane during a test flight. Virgin Galactic officials say they will resume sales later this year, and the price will likely be higher than $250,000. The New York TimesHow Much Does It Cost to Fly on Blue Origin's New Shepard?

What is the Blue Origin launch?

Blue Origin is a private spaceflight company based in Kent, Washington that is working to send tourists to space on its reusable suborbital rocket called New Shepard. ... In 2015, Blue Origin made history by successfully launching and landing a reusable rocket for the first time. space.comBlue Origin Space

How much did Bezos spend to go to space?

Jeff Bezos Just Spent $5.5B to Be in Space for 4 Minutes. globalcitizen.orgJeff Bezos Just Spent $5.5B to Be in Space for 4 Minutes. Here Are 7 Things That Money Could Help Solve.

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The New Shepard rocket's tumescent shape was low-hanging fruit to social-media users who were quick to point out the craft's phallic design and wonder whether that design meant its billionaire passenger was compensating for something.

But experts say this suborbital sausage fest was anything but accidental. New Shepard's characteristic shape was designed to optimize cabin space for up to six passengers and maximize the rocket's stability when coming back to Earth, according to Pedros Llanos, an engineer and professor of spaceflight operations at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

"The main reason the design looks like this is because Jeff's first goal is to send people to space, so everything revolves around having four to six people in the cabin and so maximizing cabin volume," Llanos told Insider. His group at Embry-Riddle has sent cargo up on previous New Shepard launches in 2017 and 2019

"Jeff also wanted to have the biggest windows in space so people could have an awesome experience," Llanos said, which further increased the size of the capsule.

While most spacecraft resemble, in part, male genitalia, New Shepard's wide mushroom-like capsule — and the skinny girth of the booster underneath — are the driving source of recent innuendo. 

Blue Origin declined Insider's request for comment. 

According to Llanos, Blue Origin engineers tested more than 100 configurations for the capsule shape before settling on one that starts wide at the base and tapers — a bit like a muffin top.

Given that the capsule is the first thing to cut through the air as New Shepard ascends skyward (scientists call this forward-most part the nose cone), it's rounded to reduce drag, Llanos said.

Drag is the force that slows an object down as it moves through the air. The shape of a rocket affects how much drag it experiences, NASA said: "Most round surfaces have less drag than flat ones. Narrow surfaces usually have less drag than wide ones."

The capsule needed to stay stable on descent, too — it detached from the New Shepard booster in the atmosphere and fell for four minutes before deploying parachutes and delivering Bezos and three others safely to the ground. That's why engineers had to make the bottom so wide.

"The more base it has, the better it's going to land," said Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. A capsule shape with a narrower base would have been less stable during reentry.

Like most rockets, New Shepard has a propellant-filled booster that helps blast its capsule toward space. 

The higher in space a rocket's objective is, the more propellant it needs to hold in order to power its journey. So a booster carrying a spacecraft bound for the orbiting International Space Station, like SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, is going to be taller and larger than a booster for a rocket like New Shepard that's designed to go only to the very edge of space. 

"You don't need as much fuel to go suborbital; everything on Jeff's rocket is optimized to go suborbital," Llanos said. "If it had gone orbital the design would've been much different."

Since Bezos' rocket was only aiming for the Kármán line — an imaginary boundary 62 miles above sea level, where many experts say space begins — its engineers cut down the height and girth of New Shepard's booster. (Narrower surfaces usually have less drag, too.)

The move reinforced the rocket's phallic profile. 

McDowell said there are other rockets that have capsules wider than their boosters — known as "hammerhead" rockets.

Notably, he said, United Launch Alliance's Atlas V rocket, which will fly NASA and Boeing's CST-100 Starliner spacecraft to the space station on July 30, has a similar profile.

It's hard to predict whether future commercial space missions will sport a similar design, Llanos said.

Certainly, Blue Origin's next rocket — named New Glenn — looks more like a bullet than a penis.

"It's more elongated and longer to accommodate a much larger payload," Llanos said. 

But New Glenn is designed to go into orbit and back. And unlike its suborbital predecessor, the rocket won't have a rotund nose cone, meaning New Shepard will likely be the only craft of its kind put out by Blue Origin.

"This is probably the most phallic-looking spacecraft you're going to see, if I had to guess," Daniel Ramspacher, a propulsion engineer at NASA Goddard Space Center, told Slate.

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For all our sakes, let’s hope Jeff Bezos’s space trip is just a midlife crisis | Gaby Hinsliff

The Guardian 22 July, 2021 - 09:30am

If you say so, Jeff. But it looked very much like the intergalactic equivalent of one of those cruises where a vast herd is disgorged ashore for a brief, bewildered trample over the nearest landmark before being rounded up and whisked away to the next port. Sure, you’ve been to Venice, technically. But which one was Venice, again?

Anyway, the 57-year-old Bezos said that seeing our blue and green orb from space made him appreciate its fragility, so no snide remarks about whether the cowboy hat he insisted on wearing just screams “midlife crisis” or how much his rocket resembles a penis (very much, since you ask). “I want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer,” Bezos said mistily afterwards. “Because you guys paid for all this.” Well, yes, in a very real sense we did. And now we’d like our money back. Someone calculated that the $5.5bn or so that the trip had cost could have bought enough food to stop 37.5 million people starving.

Compare and contrast with his ex-wife, Mackenzie Scott, who intends to give away a $38bn divorce settlement she says was “enabled by systems that need to change”, and has already dispensed $8.5bn to causes including food banks, Black colleges and female-led charities. Every Amazon employee and customer paid for that too, but perhaps a bit less grudgingly. If only there was some kind of mechanism, ideally administered by governments on behalf of their nations, whereby people with more money than they can possibly ever spend were required to redistribute some of it among the people without whom they couldn’t have made it. Crazy idea, obviously, although less crazy than Bezos’s suggestion of moving all the polluting industries on Earth into space, to protect our fragile planet by ruining some other one instead.

His plans to take paying tourists into orbit may yet founder on this being the nichest of niche markets. He won’t say how much a ticket would cost – but suffice to say that if you need to ask, then you can’t afford it. (An unnamed individual paid $28m at auction for a seat on this inaugural flight, before crying off at the last minute claiming “scheduling conflicts”, leaving one wondering what kind of person is too busy to boldly go where no hedge funder has been before; the seat was eventually taken by a Dutch financier’s 18-year-old son.)

If Bezos’s flying phallus represented little more than a restless billionaire’s attempt to kill the emptiness inside, then it might be galling but it wouldn’t ultimately matter. It would just be what happens when you get so rich and powerful that there is nobody left with the guts to tell you the hat looks ridiculous, and so does a business model seemingly based on exploiting warehouse workers while providing other millionaires with a glorified fairground ride into space.

But if what it actually portends is the unchecked commercial exploitation of the ultimate virgin environment by an elite group of super-billionaires more powerful than many governments, encouraged by the unfettered way they were allowed to operate on Earth to believe they can do the same in the sky – well, then, Houston, we have a problem. Better hope for all our sakes that this really is a midlife vanity project after all.

Gaby Hinsliff is a Guardian columnist

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