Jeff Bezos’ space company Blue Origin is set to launch William Shatner, the actor known best for his role as Captain James T. Kirk in the original “Star Trek,” and three others on a brief journey to the edge of space Wednesday morning.
It will be the company’s second mission with space tourists on board.
Launching Mr. Shatner, whose character crisscrossed outer space in the U.S.S. Enterprise for years, could be a moment of symbolism for Blue Origin, one of a handful of billionaire-backed space companies vying to make what once seemed like science fiction into reality by launching wealthy adventure seekers to space and beyond.
“It looks like there’s a great deal of curiosity in this fictional character, Captain Kirk, going into space,” Mr. Shatner said in a promotional video posted on Twitter by the company. “So let’s go along with it. Enjoy the ride.”
When is the launch and how can I watch it?
Liftoff is scheduled for 10 a.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, and Blue Origin will stream the flight live on its YouTube channel. The video will begin about 90 minutes before the flight.
The launch was initially scheduled for Tuesday morning, but windy conditions over West Texas prompted Blue Origin to push the launch back 24 hours. If more strong winds pop up on Wednesday, the company could choose to delay the flight by another 24 hours, to Thursday.
Who are the passengers other than William Shatner?
Three other passengers will join Mr. Shatner on Wednesday’s flight:
Audrey Powers, a Blue Origin vice president who oversees New Shepard flight operations; like Mr. Shatner, she did not have to pay for her seat.
Chris Boshuizen, a co-founder of Planet Labs, a company that builds small satellites, also known as CubeSats, that are used by assorted clients for monitoring Earth from orbit.
Glen de Vries, a chief executive and co-founder of Medidata Solutions, a company that built software for clinical trials.
Dr. Boshuizen or Mr. de Vries are the second and third paying passengers to fly on a Blue Origin flight. The first was Oliver Daemen, an 18-year-old man from the Netherlands. The company has not said how much any of these customers paid for their seats on the flights.
As ticket-purchasing customers, they are something like early investors in an industry executives hope will one day be cheap enough for a broader swath of the public to take advantage of.
What will happen during the flight?
The full mission lasts about 10 minutes. New Shepard launches to an altitude of roughly 63 miles, a widely recognized marker of where space begins and known as the Kármán line.
At peak altitude, the booster rocket, about six stories high, releases the capsule where the crew sit. The booster then begins a descent back toward the ground, reigniting its single engine to land vertically on a slab of concrete five miles from where it launched.
Back in space at the same time, the crew capsule is suspended in a free fall. The passengers experience roughly four minutes of weightlessness in microgravity as well as views of Earth’s slightly curved horizon where its atmosphere meets space. Each seat has its own window of 3.5 feet by 2.3 feet.
“I’m thrilled and anxious, and a little nervous and a little frightened, about this whole new adventure,” Mr. Shatner said during an interview on NBC’s “Today” show on Monday.
During the capsule’s free fall toward land, it deploys an initial set of parachutes to brake its speed, then another set of three bigger parachutes to carry the capsule softly to land at about 15 miles per hour.
What is the turmoil at Blue Origin?
In September, Alexandra Abrams, the former head of employee communications at Blue Origin, published an essay with 20 unnamed current and former employees of Blue Origin saying the company’s work culture was rife with sexism and that internal safety concerns were often dismissed by management.
Since publishing the essay, Ms. Abrams said in an interview that she had received supportive messages from current Blue Origin employees and engineers. She said she also had heard from employees at other companies describing their workplace difficulties. That response surprised her, as she had expected an onslaught of attacks from others in the small aerospace industry. “I personally was very heartened to see the responses, from everyone but Blue Origin,” Ms. Abrams said.
Blue Origin disputed the allegations in the essay, saying in a statement that the company has an internal hotline for sexual harassment complaints and that New Shepard was the “safest space vehicle ever designed or built.” The company also said Ms. Abrams was fired over “repeated warnings for issues involving federal export control regulations.”
Ms. Abrams said that was false, and that she was fired in 2019 over her disagreement with a new policy that she was asked to help rollout to prohibit workers from banding together to take legal action over workplace issues and force them to settle disputes in private arbitration with the company.
‘Saturday Night Live’ Takes on the N.F.L.’s Jon Gruden Scandal
You know an N.F.L. scandal has wide-reaching implications when it makes it as far as a “Saturday Night Live” opening sketch.
This week, in an episode hosted by Rami Malek and featuring the musical guest Young Thug, “S.N.L.” led off with a segment about Jon Gruden, the former coach of the Las Vegas Raiders, who stepped down on Monday. A New York Times report had detailed emails from Gruden that contained misogynist and homophobic remarks, following the disclosure of another email from him in which he used a racist stereotype to describe a Black union leader.
The “S.N.L.” sketch made use of several members of the show’s cast — even Colin Jost, who’s rarely seen away from the Weekend Update desk, and who played the N.F.L. commissioner Roger Goodell.
Speaking as Goodell, Jost said, “When you see me on TV, it’s never good. This time, one of our coaches is accused of racism, misogyny and homophobia. But hey, at least no one’s talking about concussions.”
Jost added, “I assure you all 32 teams in our league understand that diversity is our strength. And I know our Black coaches would agree. Both of them.”
He then introduced Gruden, who he said “got on his knees and begged, and you know how much I hate seeing someone kneel.”
James Austin Johnson, a new cast member who is rapidly adding to his roster of impersonations, played Gruden with some prominent cheek prosthetics. “I hope you won’t judge me on one email I sent 10 years ago,” he said. “Or the 20 emails I sent last Tuesday.”
Alex Moffat, wearing a closely cropped wig, played the Raiders owner Mark Davis. “We need to do better,” he said. “We need to, as I always tell my barber, aim higher.”
The lineup also featured Pete Davidson as the team’s new coach. “It is an honor to take over this storied franchise and a real shame that I have to immediately resign,” he said. “They just found my emails, too, and they are so much worse than the old coach’s.”
He was followed by Andrew Dismukes, playing an equipment manager, who just learned he’d been made coach and must now also resign because of his old tweets. “I never should have dressed up as Jackie Chan for Halloween,” he explained. “But 2019 was a different era.”
Chris Redd as appeared as the former N.F.L. quarterback Colin Kaepernick. “So much stuff coming out about the NFL is maybe racist, kinda,” he said with a dramatic pause. “Huh. I wonder if anyone tried to warn people about this before.”
Finally, Moffat said he’d found the perfect coach for the team — “someone even Twitter can get behind” — fan favorite LeVar Burton (played by Kenan Thompson).
‘Squid Game’ Segment of the Week
It was only a matter of time before “S.N.L.” took on “Squid Game,” the dystopian South Korean serial that’s become a widely watched hit on Netflix. The show came at it from a somewhat oblique angle in this country music video where Davidson and Malek start out singing about the unusual lengths they will go to in order to earn money. As the lyrics run:
Yes I’m broke and it’s a damn shame
Guess I gotta play the Squid Game
Yes I gotta play the Squid Game
My only option is the Squid Game
Have a number not a real name
‘Cause I’m playing in the Squid Game.
You know what comes next, of course: masks, jumpsuits, and a giant talking doll leading a murderous round of Red Light, Green Light.
Celebrity Overload of the Week
A satirical game show called “Celeb School” allowed several “S.N.L.” cast members to indulge in offbeat impressions of famous figures, including John Oliver (Mikey Day), Jennifer Coolidge (Chloe Fineman), Adam Driver (James Austin Johnson), Kristen Wiig (Melissa Villaseñor), George Takei (Bowen Yang) and Lil Wayne (Chris Redd). But its real achievement may be providing a platform for Pete Davidson to play Rami Malek and for Rami Malek to play Pete Davidson. (One of them nails the assignment, but in fairness he has an Academy Award.)
If that’s too conceptual for you, there’s also this segment in which Malek and Thompson play themselves, competing for the role of Prince in a biopic directed by Jordan Peele (Redd). Stick around to the end and your reward is a cameo appearance from Daniel Craig, dressed as a Renaissance-era prince and air-guitaring the opening riff from “Kiss.” (Craig also appeared in a later sketch, playing an audience member at an unusual improvised musical performance.)
Weekend Update Jokes of the Week
Over at the Weekend Update desk, Jost and his co-anchor Michael Che riffed on President Biden and the latest challenges facing his legislative agenda.
If you’ve felt like you haven’t seen enough Bowen Yang since he became a full member of the “S.N.L.” cast this season, this weekend’s episode made up for that in a big way.
Yang got the spotlight first in a sketch about a middle school bug pageant, where he played a 7th grader cast as a feisty, fashionable daddy longlegs. (Asked how he traps his prey, Yang replied, “I slam my credit card down and say daddy’s got it.”)
Yang later turned up at the Weekend Update desk, playing a gay Oompa Loompa who finds all the coverage of Timothée Chalamet’s “Wonka” movie to be “scrum-diddly-umptious,” but has not yet come out to his parents.
“They live in Loompaland,” Yang explained to Jost. “It’s not as progressive as here. They, like, just got ‘Will & Grace.’”
8 Socially Conscious Wedding Gift Ideas
Even if they’ve requested no gifts, showing up to a wedding without something for the couple can feel awkward. Newlyweds may direct guests to donate to a favorite cause or charity on their behalf, but when they don’t, it can be hard to find an alternative to arriving empty-handed.
In the same way a couple would appreciate a donation in their name, they may appreciate knowing you’ve chosen to buy them something that supports a small business. They may also enjoy knowing you’ve selected a gift that helps them live more sustainably.
The eight ideas that follow come recommended by environmental activists and social-justice advocates who have dedicated their time to making the planet more equitable and inhabitable. They include gifts both practical and charitable, all of which do a bit more good than your traditional toaster oven.
Elizabeth Teo works in communications for the Toronto Environmental Alliance. She uses social media to draw attention to climate- and waste-related issues.
Hive Brands grocery box, from $10
“Customize a zero-waste kit from Hive Brands for the couple. You can pick and choose items to stay within a budget. It saves them the hassle and helps them get started in their new home.”
“This worm composter is a useful gift and a hands-on learning experience. It turns food scraps into nutrient-rich compost for a garden. You can place it in a kitchen without having to worry about the smell or pests.”
Pattie Gonia, a drag queen and an environmentalist, raises money and awareness for L.G.B.T.Q. and environmental groups.
“A membership to a co-op in the couple’s area supports local farmers, ranchers, and producers. It helps our planet and supports a local economy. My favorite: Central Oregon Locavore in Bend, Ore.”
Nori carbon removal, from $15
“Carbon offsets reduce the emissions produced by things like driving or flying. You can purchase them through renewable-energy projects or carbon-sequestering projects like Nori. The gift sparks thoughtful conversations about our environment.”
Francesca Willow is the blogger behind the Ethical Unicorn, which covers sustainability and social justice.
“A subscription to Who Gives A Crap sends bulk toilet paper or paper towels made from recycled paper. For people who are creating new homes together, it’s an easy, sustainable, and convenient lifestyle alternative.”
Choose Love donation, from $1
Choose Love does invaluable work across the world to provide refugees and displaced people everything from search-and-rescue boats to food and legal advice. If a couple prefers charity donations, it’s my top choice.
Gina Danza left a corporate job in television in 2017 to become an outdoor photographer who encourages people of color to explore nature.
“Reusable Stasher bags are great for cooking, traveling, and more. If the couple opens them before the wedding, they can even freeze a slice of wedding cake in one.”
Indigenous Women Hike donation, from $1
“Everywhere you stand is Native land. People get married on Native land. A donation to Indigenous Women Hike will help fund work to raise awareness of Indigenous history on public lands.”
Gadsby and Netflix Employees Pressure Executive Over Dave Chappelle Special
Tensions at Netflix continued to flare on Friday, 10 days after the release of a special by the comedian Dave Chappelle that critics inside and outside the company have described as promoting bigotry against transgender people.
Early on Friday, a Netflix star criticized the company and Ted Sarandos, a co-chief executive, in a stinging social media post. Later in the day, Netflix said it had fired an employee for sharing documents related to Mr. Chappelle with a reporter, and Mr. Sarandos fielded pointed questions from employees during a companywide virtual meeting.
In a rare public rebuke, the Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby upbraided Mr. Sarandos by name for his defense of Mr. Chappelle. Ms. Gadsby, whose 2017 Netflix special, “Nanette,” earned an Emmy and a Peabody Award, is the most prominent entertainer to criticize Mr. Sarandos and Netflix, which she referred to in an Instagram post as an “amoral algorithm cult.”
Mr. Sarandos and Netflix’s other co-chief, Reed Hastings, have been unwavering in their support of Mr. Chappelle, who signed a lucrative multiyear deal with the company in 2016 and has won Emmys and Grammys for his Netflix work. In a note this week, Mr. Sarandos countered the arguments of Netflix staff members who had suggested that Mr. Chappelle’s special, “The Closer,” could lead to violence against transgender people, writing that he had the “strong belief that content on-screen doesn’t directly translate to real-world harm.”
Mr. Sarandos, who joined Netflix two decades ago and became its co-chief executive last year, also said that the company would go to great lengths to “ensure marginalized communities aren’t defined by a single story.” He cited inclusive Netflix programs like “Sex Education” and “Orange Is the New Black” as well as Ms. Gadsby’s specials, which also include “Douglas,” released in 2020.
In her social media post on Friday, Ms. Gadsby, who is a lesbian, objected to the executive’s references to her in his defense of the company and Mr. Chappelle’s special.
“Hey Ted Sarandos!” Ms. Gadsby wrote. “Just a quick note to let you know that I would prefer if you didn’t drag my name into your mess. Now I have to deal with even more of the hate and anger that Dave Chappelle’s fans like to unleash on me every time Dave gets 20 million dollars to process his emotionally stunted partial world view.”
She continued: “You didn’t pay me nearly enough to deal with the real world consequences of the hate speech dog whistling you refuse to acknowledge, Ted.”
Netflix declined to comment on Ms. Gadsby’s remarks.
At a virtual company meeting that started at 10 a.m. Pacific time on Friday, Mr. Sarandos replied to a series of tough questions from employees, who asked about Mr. Chappelle’s special and how the company had responded to criticisms of it, according to three people with knowledge of the gathering. The event became emotional when several employees were persistent in their questioning of Mr. Sarandos and his support for someone who they feel engages in hate speech, the people said.
After the meeting, Netflix said in a statement that an employee had been fired for sharing internal documents pertaining to Mr. Chappelle with the press.
“We have let go of an employee for sharing confidential, commercially sensitive information outside the company,” the statement said. “We understand this employee may have been motivated by disappointment and hurt with Netflix, but maintaining a culture of trust and transparency is core to our company.”
The documents included private financial information regarding Mr. Chappelle’s Netflix specials that were published this week by Bloomberg, according to a person with knowledge of the termination. The documents included the costs for the specials — $24.1 million for “The Closer” and $23.6 million for Mr. Chappelle’s previous special, “Sticks & Stones” — as well as an internal metric that determines the value of the specials relative to their budgets.
Such data is available to Netflix staff but rarely made public. The appearance of the statistics in a published article is a further sign of how deep the schism is between some Netflix employees and company leadership.
Several organizations, including GLAAD, which monitors the news media and entertainment companies for bias against the L.G.B.T.Q. community, have criticized Mr. Chappelle’s special as transphobic. A group of Netflix workers has planned a walkout for next week in protest.
Nicole Sperling contributed reporting.