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Shepard vs New Shepard: How astronaut daughter's launch stacks up

Special feature presented by

December 11, 2021

— Laura Shepard Churchley is now the 372nd American to fly into space. Her dad was the first.

Separated by 60 years, 7 months and 6 days, Churchley followed in her father's footsteps — and suborbital flight trajectory — by launching on board Blue Origin's New Shepard on Saturday (Dec. 11). The rocket, named after Alan Shepard, the United States' first astronaut to fly into space (and Churchley's dad), completed its 19th successful spaceflight and first to carry a full crew of six people.

The two Shepards' history-making missions were similar in many ways and yet the fact that Churchley was able to repeat her father's feat with only a few days of training speaks to how far human spaceflight has come in the past six decades. Churchley flew as a guest of Blue Origin, which was founded by Jeff Bezos, the former CEO of Amazon.

"This was just wonderful. I was trained too well, I knew exactly what was coming," Churchley told Bezos after landing and exiting the capsule. "I thought about Daddy on coming down and I thought, 'Gosh, he didn't get to enjoy any of what I am getting to enjoy.' He was working, he had to do it himself. I went on for the ride!"

New Shepard 19 launch. Click to enlarge video in a new pop-up window. (Blue Origin)

Here is a look at how Shepard's Mercury-Redstone 3 (MR-3) and Churchley's New Shepard-19 (NS-19) flights compared.

Mercury-Redstone 3
New Shepard 19
Vehicle operator



Blue Origin

Capsule name

Freedom 7


RSS First Step

Launch site

Launch Complex-5 (LC-5)
Cape Canaveral, Florida


Blue Origin Launch Site One
Van Horn, Texas

Shepard on crew

Alan B. Shepard, Jr.


Laura Shepard Churchley





No. in space









6 ("The Original Six")

• Michael Strahan ("Good Morning America" anchor, at 6',4" now the tallest person in space)
• Dylan Taylor
• Evan Dick
• Lane Bess, Cameron Bess (first parent-child pair to launch into space together)

Launch scrubs

2 (weather, 3 days)


1 (weather, 2 days)

Launch date

May 5, 1961


Dec. 11, 2021

Unplanned holds

(on launch day)


2 hours, 14 minutes


16 minutes

Launch time

9:34:13 a.m. EST
(1434 GMT)


9:00:42 a.m. CST
(1500 GMT)

Capsule landing

9:49:35 a.m. EST
(1449 GMT)


9:10:55 a.m. CST
(1510 GMT)

No. of parachutes

1 drogue, 1 main


3 drogue, 3 main

Type of landing

water (splashdown)


land (touchdown)

Capsule flight

15 minutes, 28 seconds


10 minutes, 13 seconds

Capsule apogee

(max altitude)


101.2 nautical miles
116.5 statute miles
187.5 km


57.2 nautical miles
66.8 statute miles
105.9 km

Capsule range

263.1 nautical miles
302.8 statute miles
487.3 km


[not immediately reported]

Vehicle height



83 feet (25 meters)


49 feet (15 meters)

Vehicle diameter

5.8 feet (1.8 meters)


12.1 feet (3.7 meters)

Capsule volume



100 cubic feet (2.8 m3)


530 cubic feet (15 m3)

Capsule windows

(no. and size)


0 (two 6-inch [15 cm]
circular portholes)


6 (each 42.7 inches in height and 28.6 inches across at the bottom [108.5 by 72.6 centimeters])

Total flights



1 / 1


5 / 5

collectSPACE is thankful to RR Auction for sponsoring coverage of Blue Origin's New Shepard-19 (NS-19) mission. The auction house is based in New Hampshire, Alan Shepard's home state, and was behind the $28 million sale of the first seat on Blue Origin's New Shepard launch vehicle.


Laura Shepard Churchley's New Shepard 19 launch on Dec. 11, 2021 (at right) and Mercury-Redstone 3 lifting off with her father, Alan Shepard, on May 5, 1961, 60 years ago. (NASA/Blue Origin)

Laura Shepard Churchley wore a Blue Origin flight suit on her New Shepard flight. Her father, NASA astronaut Alan Shepard, donned a BF Goodrich pressure suit. (Blue Origin/NASA)

Commemorative Mercury-Redstone 3 patch created after the flight and Blue Origin's New Shepard 19 mission patch as worn by Laura Shepard Churchley and her crewmates. (AB Emblem/Blue Origin)

Laura Shepard (Churchley), 14, at McDonnell Aircraft in St. Louis sits in a mockup of a Mercury capsule like the type her father, Alan Shepard, rode into space. (Laura Shepard Churchley)

Laura Shepard Churchley (at center) with her five New Shepard 19 crewmates, from the left: Dylan Taylor, Lane Bess, Cameron Bess, Michael Strahan and Evan Dick. (Blue Origin)

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