We were really excited to have the opportunity to visit Blue Origin, the space company founded by Jeff Bezos. Their goal is to make space accessible for tourists and scientists. We were surprised to find out that there was a rocket making facility near our home, just south of Seattle.
The lobby of Blue Origin houses tons of really cool models and collectible space-related things. We walked through a hallway to get to a conference room. All the rooms had space names, like Jupiter and Apollo. When we got there we got to see some videos of the New Shepard rocket launching in Texas and we got to see a video of a rocket launching but coming back down and landing safely. Kristina, one of the people to come talk to us, and her dog Hank, showed us different “show and tell” items including models used in wind tunnels and different insulator materials that she was testing.
After that we went downstairs to the rocket building part of the facility. When we first saw the area it was awe-inspiring. There were so many rocket parts and machinery! We put on safety goggles and a former NASA astronaut, Nicholas, came to take us to the room where the capsule was. It was just a test capsule, and it would never actually go to space, but it was being used to test and work with design. We got to go inside and try out the seats! There was a big bump on the inside for the emergency booster. In case the astronauts needed to escape from the big engine, it would get them far enough away to be safe. The seats could be adjusted to fit the astronaut inside. Sadly, the FAA says that only people 18+ are allowed to go to space. Then he gave us signed photos of him in his spacesuit.
Next, we went to a section where they were building the BE-3 engine. They have liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen in two big tanks and when they mix together they make an explosion, which is used to power the rocket. It was really inspiring since there were two adults, rocket scientists, talking to us like we were adults just like them. Right then they were working on getting the booster to land by itself to be reusable. Because the first one they tested didn’t land, they were making more. They had already shipped #2 to Texas, their test launch site, and they were right in the process of finishing #3. When they make the parts of the booster, they don’t connect them by welding. They have a robot that stirs the metal together in circles, which makes it smoother and it requires less energy. I really loved learning about the engine and the capsule and how all of the rocket worked.
After that, we went to visit a room suspended over the lobby. It was shaped like a rocket! On the inside, it had couches built into the side and little quirky decorations. It was very Victorian themed and awesome. It was very cool to see. Erica and Heather, our awesome engineer tour guides, gave us their business cards which were in the capsule on the first test flight of the New Shepard. That meant that they went to space! I thought that that was really cool.
I really enjoyed visiting Blue Origin and seeing all of the “inside” rockets. This visit was very inspirational.