Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin is taking SNL's Pete Davidson to space

Space tourism is making the Saturday Night Live star the newest astronaut.
Brad Bergan
Jeff Bezos (left), and Pete Davidson (right).1, 2

It's happening.

The star of "Saturday Night Live" will be among six new passengers aboard the next Blue Origin flight: Pete Davidson is about to become an astronaut by riding atop Jeff Bezos' New Shepard rocket, according to an initial AP News report.

The launch is set for March 23, and will make Davidson the third major celebrity to ride Blue Origin's space tourism vehicle — on the heels of William Shatner's October 2021 flight, which lofted the "Star Trek" actor 66 miles above the surface, and returned him safely to West Texas in a 10-minute flight.

Blue Origin's space tourism maintains its lead over SpaceX and Virgin Galactic

The passengers slated to join Davidson on his jaunt to space include the teacher and entrepreneur Jim Kitchen, former NASA Manager George Nield, CEO and investor Marty Allen, and Sharon and Marc Hagle. But all of these space tourists come on the heels of Blue Origin's Founder, billionaire, and space baron: Jeff Bezos.

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Bezos was among the crew of New Shepard's first crewed flight on July 20, 2021, within the firm's crew capsule: the RSS First Step. Richard Branson, co-founder of Virgin Galactic and another of the trio of space barons pioneering the public-private model of commercial space flight, flew to space a few days before Bezos, becoming the first billionaire ever to fly into the final frontier aboard his vehicle: the VSS Unity SpaceShipTwo.

The difference between these two vehicles of Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic lies in their mode of achieving sufficient altitude to reach the edge of space. Blue Origin's New Shepard lifts the crew capsule much of the way to space, then releases it to coast upward, and both return separately within 10 minutes. Virgin Galactic's method is more conventional — lofting the vehicle aboard a larger carrier plane, then detaching before igniting its rockets and flying the rest of the way itself.

Upon completing its space-bound journey, the VSS Unity simply coasts down to Earth for a nice, soft, plane-like landing. The final space baron, CEO Elon Musk of SpaceX, has yet to fly to space, but his means of lifting humans into space has broader ambitions than space tourism, alone.

SpaceX's Starship to go orbital in 2022

With plans to go orbital sometime in 2022, SpaceX's Starship — which is 394 ft tall, providing 75 meganewtons of thrust — will outperform the Saturn V rocket that lifted humans to the Moon. It involves both a first-stage booster dubbed the SuperHeavy, and a second-stage that can lift 100 people into space. Most notably, when the technology and orbital procedures are fully vetted for regular flights, Musk plans to offer a quick-transit system that could ferry paying customers around the world — from New York City to Shanghai, China, in just 40 minutes.

The big picture - Unlike Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, Starship is designed to orbit the Earth, instead of a quick "hop" beyond the atmosphere and return to the surface. This opens the opportunity for new forms of mass transit, and will also pave the way for a return to the Moon via NASA's Artemis program. Eventually, Starship is expected to land the first humans on Mars. So while we can celebrate celebrities like William Shatner and SNL's Pete Davidson joining the rapidly-surging ranks of nouveau astronauts, and recognize Blue Origin's current lead in space tourism — the big picture of Space Race 2.0 remains firmly in SpaceX's hands.