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Photo: NASTAR

How to go to space

How to go to space

Good morning! This Friday, how to train to go to space, Google is reorganizing its health team, ditch your cubicle and pitch a tent instead, and helicopter startup Blade had a fake spokesperson for years.

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The Big Story

How to train for space travel

Jeff Bezos, his brother and a mystery companion are heading to space next month on Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket, leveling up the bucket list for billionaires club activities. (The mystery seat sold for $28 million at auction, by the way).

It will be the first manned flight for the New Shepard rocket, which seems like quite the risk to take, but apparently the 7,000-plus bidders eager for an adventure alongside Bezos did not agree with me.

Bezos's isn't the only upcoming "tourist" flight for this year. SpaceX will be launching a far larger mission to the International Space Station, called the "Inspiration4," in September. For the first time for any space mission, the rocket will be crewed entirely by amateurs/space tourists/non-astronauts.

But you can't just go to space without training. I sat down with Glenn King, the COO of the National Aerospace Training and Research Center, to find out what it takes. He helps hundreds of potential space tourists — including the Inspiration4 crew — learn what it's like to experience the G-forces involved in space travel, using an FAA-approved human centrifuge.

  • His company's training program simulates the specific G-forces, sounds and sights of the exact rocket a person will be taking into orbit (NASTAR has contracts with Virgin Galactic, Axiom, SpaceX and others).
  • And the services are in high demand; King's days are full with trainings, and he said he's on the cusp of seeing huge numbers of people that he's worked with actually head into space.

Historically, few were eligible for space travel, though that's changing. NASTAR also provides medical monitoring technology in an effort to dramatically widen the range of people who are eligible for space flight. While NASA and other government astronaut programs usually hire only the most physically and emotionally healthy people and then train them for years, commercial space tourism companies want almost anyone to be able to fly. King told me that this can absolutely happen.

  • "I just trained people with prosthetic devices, diabetes, pacemakers — normally in the past these were all disqualifiers, but now with proper training, conditioning and monitoring, they can be safe," he said. "I have not yet run across a disqualifying factor. I just finished training a gentleman from Argentina who has had polio since he was a child."

But the hardest part will be getting a ticket to board one of these space flights, not the NASTAR training. SpaceX, Virgin Atlantic, Blue Origin and satellite-hotel company Axiom (which is building a luxury orbital hotel with permission to dock at the ISS) are all planning to get hundreds of tourists into space.

  • Hundreds of people have already paid for their seats and reserved their times years in advance. One woman booked her ticket with Virgin Galactic back in 2005.
  • As this kind of travel becomes more commonplace, it could just become the hardest, and hottest, ticket to get.

Of course, as often goes with luxuries that only the richest among us can afford, space travel has some haters. In fact, there's a Change.org petition circulating this week with more than 13,700 signatures asking the government to prevent Jeff Bezos from reentering the Earth's atmosphere. Ouch.

— Anna Kramer (email | twitter)

A MESSAGE FROM AMAZON

In 2018, Amazon increased their starting wage to at least $15 an hour for all employees across the U.S. The positive impact on employee morale and retention—and the surge in job applicants—was immediate.

Learn more

People Are Talking

The Titanium coin crashed all the way to zero in the span of about 24 hours, leading Mark Cuban to call for more regulation:

  • "Where collateralization is not 1 to 1, should the math of the risks have to be clearly defined for all users and approved before release? Probably given stable coins most likely need to get to hundreds of millions or more in value in order to be useful, they should have to register."

On Protocol: Startups should start thinking about hiring dedicated DEI executives while they're still small, GV's Candice Morgan said:

  • "I usually say sub-200 people … If it is not coming from your CEO and senior leadership team, there is a problem. And if you do bring someone in early on, be very careful not to put it all on their shoulders, which can happen especially in a very high-growth startup."

Mark Zuckerberg is bullish on exercise as a killer app for VR:

  • "Think about it like Peloton, where you have a subscription, but instead the device is VR and you put on your headset, and you're in this amazing environment and you're doing a boxing class with an instructor, or a dance class … we think that this is eventually going to be a big part of the next major computing platform after phones and after PCs."
Anduril raised $450 million, which Palmer Luckey announced will fund ... some big plans:
  • "It will be used to turn American and allied warfighters into invincible technomancers who wield the power of autonomous systems to safely accomplish their mission. Our future roadmap is going to blow you away, stay tuned!"

Making Moves

Google is downsizing its health team, Business Insider reported, and moving most of its work to the Fitbit side of the organization.

Katie Harbath is joining the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab as a nonresident fellow. She recently stepped down as Facebook's longtime public policy director.

Laura Jones is Instacart's new VP of brand and marketing, joining from Uber.

Canoo is building a manufacturing facility in Tulsa. The company plans to bring 2,000 jobs to the area, and the plant is scheduled to open in 2023.

In Other News

  • Did you get that "Integration Test Email #1 from HBO last night? A lot of people did, which led to the most fun Twitter has ever had dunking on email. Turns out, it really was the intern who did it.
  • On Protocol: Microsoft has some big, ambitious new ideas for conference rooms and hybrid meetings … and some tips for those less willing to knock their office down and start over. Starting with: Everyone's on their laptop, on camera, all the time.
  • Hey bitcoin miners: Want to move to Miami? Mayor Francis Suarez is encouraging miners, particularly those looking to leave China, to come take advantage of the city's nuclear energy.
  • A Waymo vehicle hit a scooter rider in San Francisco, but Waymo said a person was driving manually at the time. Nobody was hurt, so we can say without feeling bad: What an incredibly 2021 accident report.
  • Elon Musk's last house appears to be on the market, which he mentioned in a tweet this week. It's 16,000 square feet and on the market for $37.5 million, but given both the crazy real-estate market and Musk's fame, we're guessing it'll sell for roughly $11 trillion.
  • On Protocol: TikTok is coming for your TV. ByteDance has been building apps for the big(ger) screen for some time, and sees it as a way to expand both its audience and its ad dollars.
  • Amazon continues to pull popular Chinese brands from its site. This time it's three Sunvalley brands, including the popular RavPower and Vava.
  • The FCC is also continuing to move against China. It proposed more restrictions on equipment from companies like Huawei and ZTE, even pushing to overturn previous buying decisions.
  • Blade had a fake spokesperson for years. The helicopter startup invented "Simon McLaren" as a persona to interact with reporters and write a newsletter, Business Insider reported, and CEO Rob Wiesenthal said he often pretended to be McLaren.

One More Thing

The 20-hour workweek?

As we all head back to work, we're re-thinking everything about the workday. But what about the workweek? There has long been a push to make the workweek four days rather than five, and an increasing pile of research and evidence supports the idea. Buffer is one company that started a four-day week as an experiment, The Atlantic reported, and has decided to stick with it.

There's a simultaneous debate happening over the 9-5, along similar lines. Plenty of evidence shows that most people can only do about five hours of productive work every day, so why make them stay at their computer three hours longer? The industry is talking a lot about work-life balance right now; maybe the answer is just less work and more life.

In that spirit, we're out of here. Happy weekend!

A MESSAGE FROM AMAZON

A recent study from the University of California-Berkeley and Brandeis University found that when Amazon raised their starting wage to $15/hr, the average hourly wage in the surrounding area rose by 4.7% as other employers followed their lead.

Learn more

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Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket. This story was updated on June 18, 2021.

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