31 March 2022
Van Horn, Texas — A Chapel Hill professor is scheduled to leave for space Thursday from a Texas launch site at 9:10 a.m.
Jim Kitchen, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and five others will load into a Blue Origin rocket for a quick trip to space.
Twenty minutes later, the hatch will close for the 9:10 a.m. launch
Kitchen, who is a Tar Heels fan, told WRAL News he will be wearing a UNC jersey under his spacesuit to support the team days before their Final Four game.
The 10 minute ride will take the crew 60 miles above earth, where they will experience weightlessness for roughly 3 minutes. Kitchen has spent the last four days training for this mission and told WRAL News he feels ready.
The professor secured his seat on Blue Origin’s fourth human manned flight after he applied for a chance to purchase a seat and was selected. He said it was his childhood dream to visit space.
“This has been a dream for 50 years,” Kitchen said in an exclusive interview with WRAL News. “Paying homage to that little boy who sat his in mom’s lap watching the Apollo launch when I was a kid and to those professional astronauts that blazed the trail … keep those dreams alive and realize anything is possible.”
The Blue Origin was originally set to launch Tuesday morning, but the flight was pushed to Thursday morning due to high winds in the area.
Blue Origin is a company founded by businessman Jeff Bezos with a goal to bring ordinary people into space for tourism.
During Kitchen’s time in college, he worked for a company promoting low Earth orbit space trips, according to Blue Origin’s website. A mission patch that all six crew members will wear for the launch features an orbital ring as a call back to Kitchen’s dedication to space tourism.
Along with being an entrepreneur, Kitchen is a world traveler and has visited all 193 United Nations-recognized countries.