When Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin sends its second aircraft into space this week, Audrey Powers will be the company’s first employee to join the crew.
Currently, Powers is vice president of mission and flight operations at Blue Origin. She’ll join legendary Star Trek actor William Shatner and paying customers Chris Boshuizen and Glen de Vries on the flight.
Blue Origin flight is delayed due to high winds.
The second Blue Origin flight into space was supposed to take off on Oct. 12. It got delayed by a day because of high winds in west Texas where the launch site is. The launch has been rescheduled to 9:30 a.m. ET on Oct. 13.
Audrey Powers has worked in compliance and operations for Blue Origin.
Powers started at Blue Origin in 2013 as part of the legal team overseeing regulatory, compliance, and policy matters. Before becoming a lawyer, she worked for NASA as a guidance and controls engineer. While at NASA, Powers logged 2,000 hours of console time in Mission Control for the International Space Station.
After serving as Blue Origin’s deputy general counsel and vice president of legal and compliance for over two years, Powers switched gears to the flight operations for the New Shepard rocket. As vice president of mission and flight operations, she oversees all vehicle maintenance and launch, landing, and ground support infrastructure. She had the lead role of certifying the New Shepard rocket for human flight.
“I’m so proud and humbled to fly on behalf of Team Blue, and I’m excited to continue writing Blue’s human spaceflight history,” Powers said in a statement. “I was part of the amazing effort we assembled for New Shepard’s Human Flight Certification Review, a years-long initiative completed in July 2021. As an engineer and lawyer with more than two decades of experience in the aerospace industry, I have great confidence in our New Shepard team and the vehicle we’ve developed.”
Powers also heads the company’s gender diversity business resource group.
Former and current employees voice concerns about diversity and safety at Blue Origin.
The announcement that Powers, a top female executive at Blue Origin, will join the crew was made just a few days after former Blue Origin employee Alexandra Abrams and 20 other former and current Blue Origin employees published an essay detailing concerns about sexual harassment, lack of diversity, environmental impacts, and safety at Blue Origin.
“...in the company Bezos has created, the workforce dedicated to establishing this future ‘for all’ is mostly male and overwhelmingly white. One-hundred percent of the senior technical and program leaders are men,” the essay reads.
The essay questions the safety of New Shepard flights and also states that many of the 20+ authors have said they wouldn’t fly on a Blue Origin vehicle.
“Some of us felt that with the resources and staff available, leadership’s race to launch at such a breakneck speed was seriously compromising flight safety,” the essay reads. “We have seen a pattern of decision-making that often prioritizes execution speed and cost reduction over the appropriate resourcing to ensure quality.”
Blue Origin CEO denies allegations.
Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith was quick to respond to the allegations in a companywide email.
“It is particularly difficult and painful, for me, to hear claims being levied that attempt to characterize our entire team in a way that doesn’t align with the character and capability that I see at Blue Origin every day,” he wrote.