New Shepard’s Chief Architect to Join Suborbital Flight Next Week

Gary Lai in front of a New Shepard capsule on April 14, 2021. (Credit: Blue Origin)

KENT, Wash. (Blue Origin PR) — Blue Origin today announced the sixth crew member joining New Shepard’s 20th mission will be Blue Origin’s Gary Lai, New Shepard Chief Architect. Gary joins the previously announced crew, which includes Marty Allen, husband and wife duo Sharon and Marc Hagle, Jim Kitchen, and Dr. George Nield.

Gary is best known as the architect of the New Shepard system, including leading the team responsible for the design and development of many of the key safety systems on the Crew Capsule. He joined Blue Origin in 2004 and was among the first 20 employees.  

He is currently Senior Director and Chief Architect of New Shepard, responsible for all next generation designs, upgrades, and new product development for the New Shepard business. His prior positions include Senior Director of Design Engineering, System Architect, Crew Capsule Element Lead, NASA Commercial Crew Development Program Manager, Lead Systems Engineer, and Pathfinding Lead with responsibility for advanced research and development. Gary has been involved in product development, strategic planning, and business development for all Blue Origin product lines, including the New Glenn orbital launch vehicle, rocket engine programs, and Blue Moon. 

Blue Origin New Shepard NS-20 spaceflight participants. (Credit: Blue Origin)

During the time Gary led the New Shepard technical team as System Architect in 2016, the program won the prestigious Collier Trophy from the National Aeronautic Association “for successfully demonstrating rocket booster reusability with the New Shepard human spaceflight vehicle through five successful test flights of a single booster and engine, all of which performed powered vertical landings on Earth.” Gary was the 2019 recipient of the Blue Origin Founder’s Award for his technical ambition and achievement. 

Gary graduated from Cornell University in 1995 with a Bachelor of Science in Applied Economics and Business Management. He was a student of Carl Sagan at Cornell. He also holds a Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering from the University of Washington. Gary holds several New Shepard patents and serves on the Visiting Committee of the University of Washington College of Engineering, William E. Boeing Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. He holds three patents in space system technology.