Who is Laura Shepard Churchley, one of Blue Origin's 'honorary guests'?

Bruno Cooke November 23, 2021
Who is Laura Shepard Churchley, one of Blue Origin's 'honorary guests'?


Blue Origin announced the crew of its upcoming NS-19 flight on December 9 today. Among its “full manifest” will be former astronaut Alan Shepard’s daughter, Laura Shepard Churchley – who is she, and who else is on board?

Who is Laura Shepard Churchley?

Laura Shepard is the eldest daughter of Alan Shepard, the first American to fly to space. Shepard (the father) is also the namesake of Blue Origin’s craft: NS stands for New Shepard.

Alan and his wife Louise had two biological daughters, Laura (born 1947) and Julie (1951). After Louise’s sister died in 1956, they (effectively) adopted her daughter, their niece, who was five years old at the time. 

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Photo by Space Frontiers/Getty Images

Because her name (Judith) was so similar to the name of their youngest, they renamed her Alice.

Laura Shepard attended boarding school in St Louis. She was 13 when her father became the second person – and first American – to travel into space.

An original Shepard will fly on the New Shepard

“It’s kind of fun for me to say,” Laura Shepard says, sixty years after she watched her father launch into space. 

“An original Shepard will fly on the New Shepard. I’m really excited to be going on a Blue Origin flight. I’m very proud of my father’s legacy.”

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Blue Story | Official Trailer

Blue Story | Official Trailer

Laura serves as the Chair of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation Board of Trustees. The foundation raises money for college students to help them pursue careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

Among her fellow trustees are three astronauts: Andrew Allen, Robert Gibson and Thomas Stafford.

Who else will fly Blue Origin on December 9?

Laura Shepard is one of two “honorary guests” flying on board Blue Origin’s upcoming NS-19 flight. The other is Good Morning America co-anchor Michael Strahan.

Four paying customers will accompany them: Space For Humanity founder Dylan Taylor, “investor” Evan Dick, venture capitalist Lane Bess and his son Cameron Bess. Lane and Cameron will become the first parent-child pair to fly in space.

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Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

In a CNN interview, Jeff Bezos conceded that his Blue Origin flights amounted to “joyrides for the wealthy”, who should be spending their money “trying to solve problems here on Earth”. 

However, it’s not clear exactly what the carbon emissions of a single Blue Origin spaceflight are likely to be.

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Bruno is a novelist, amateur screenwriter and journalist with interests in digital media, storytelling, film and politics. He’s lived in France, China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines, but returned to the UK for a degree (and because of the pandemic) in 2020. His articles have appeared in Groundviews, Forge Press and The Friday Poem, and most are readable on Medium or onurbicycle.com.